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Anthony Calvillo autographed footballs up for auction

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 2, 2015 17:17
Anthony Calvillo, three time Grey Cup winning quarterback, took some time to meet with Aimy Thiessen,
Brain Blitz committee volunteer and sign a couple of footballs.

For a chance to bid on one of these autographed balls, come to The Brain Blitz presented by
WorkSafe Saskatchewan.

Get your tickets at

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Community Event with Matt Dunigan and Graeme Bell

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 1, 2014 14:06

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News | Support the Cause

Concussions: Life or Death

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 27, 2013 11:05

Head Injury Game-Changer for Star Football Player

Story by: Joelle Tomlinson


Katie Miyazaki is all too familiar with what being hit in the head feels like. It’s not pleasant, it’s a danger in sports and it can have lasting consequences.

“Diagnosed concussions? I’ve had five that put me out for a few weeks each time,” said Miyazaki, all-star alumni of the University of Saskatchewan women’s basketball team and a former Valkyries football player. “The first one I got was when I was 12 and playing hockey. I ran into a girl. I got up, saw stars and had no idea what was happening, so I just kept playing. The next was one was about two years later in net, the third one was playing dodge ball in physical education.  I got blindsided by a ball . . . and the list goes on.”

Miyazaki almost always kept playing after the constant hits to the head. She has experienced headaches, dizziness and nausea, and only stopped playing tackle football last year after her worst concussion ever.

“This last one was in our Prairie Conference final against Regina, and I knew exactly where the hit was, and that I most likely had a concussion, but I just didn’t want to come out of the game. So I kept playing and I got hit again later in the same game,” said Miyazaki. “I was pretty sure I was concussed, but then the next day I woke up and was like, ‘Oh, I feel good!’ Then, the following day I woke up and I had never felt that sick before. I couldn’t leave my room, everything felt like it was spinning, I was nauseous, but yet part of me still wanted to play that week. If my trainers hadn’t said no, and if my coach hadn’t said no, I would have played, which is a pretty bad idea in retrospect.”

Dropping out of the game wasn’t an easy decision for Miyazaki. A star athlete, Miyazaki led the Huskies to a second-place finish in the CIS championships in 2011 and a sixth-place finish in 2012. After that, she transitioned into football, where she shone as a defensive back with the Valkyries, helping them during undefeated runs to the 2011 and 2012 Western Women’s Canadian Football League championships. Miyazaki also was picked as one of 92 players to attend the training camp for Team Canada. Those selected at the camp will represent Canada at the 2013 women’s world tackle football championships in New Brunswick.

“That’s definitely what hurt the most, and what I cried over the most. I had debated not playing football last summer, but then there was the whole Team Canada thing,” said Miyazaki. “When I found out about Team Canada, that’s what my whole summer was geared toward. I wanted to make it to that camp and make that team for this summer. It bummed me out when I knew I couldn’t play at the first camp, and I thought that dream was over. Then, I was invited to the second camp, and I was still wasn’t quite better by then. It sucks because it feels like you’re giving up on a dream, but at the same time you’re like ‘This is real life. I have a lot of other things.’ As cool as it would be, it’s life or death.”

Sometimes it is death. Last week, 17-year-old Rowan Stringer, a female rugby player in Ottawa, died after receiving a severe head injury in a game. Miyazaki says that lack of awareness is one of the biggest issues for young athletes, parents and coaches in cases like this.

“Athletes, they just want to play. The kids I coach, they always want to play and unless you tell them no, they’re going to keep going,” said Miyazaki. “Now, looking back at it, I think about how dumb it is, but in the heat of the moment you don’t think about it.

“There’s something called second impact syndrome. So if you get hit and you get a concussion— and this is very rare—but if you receive another blow and your head hasn’t fully healed, especially if you’re an adolescent, then you can die because there’s still so much swelling. That’s what happened in Ottawa. They’re saying she didn’t report any of her headaches or symptoms to her parents, but she had told some of her friends. There’s nothing they could really do in that case. It’s very sad.”

Now Miyazaki works to raise this awareness through working with the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association (SBIA). She is part of Take Brain Injury out of Play, a campaign within the association that strives to educate young athletes about the dangers of head injuries.

“We emphasize that if you’re going to respect your own brain, you’ve got to respect the brain of your opponents, too. Part of that is playing by the rules,” said Miyazaki. “My job is to try and promote that program and go out and make people aware of concussions, because I think a lot of people don’t realize how big of an issue it is. They don’t take it as seriously as it needs to be taken because you can’t see it, right?

“You look at someone and they look fine to you. If someone had a broken arm, you would never tell them to get back in the game, but if you look at someone and they just have a headache, people pressure them to get back in the game. This is something we need to stop as peers, coaches and parents.”

Miyazaki knows her football days are likely over. It’s not a guarantee, but neither is life.

“I decided not to play this year because it wasn’t worth it. Some days I still occasionally feel dizzy, which could be the concussions or my neck injury. It’s a hard thing; I know my parents don’t want me to play, and the thing is, they say once you’ve had one you’re so much more susceptible. That’s not good news for me.

“There are so many other things that I want to do in my life that to risk that and have to sit out for months again, just for one sport, isn’t really worth it to me.”

June is National Brain Injury Awareness month and Miyazaki hopes that, with the added education and conversation about head injuries, athletes start to realize the importance of protecting their brains. To learn more about Miyazaki, the SBIA or Take Brain Injury out of Play campaign, email Miyazaki at or go to the SBIA website at

Story from The Saskatoon Express



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"Hide it" Mindset Still Exists in NFL

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 30, 2011 10:00

Ask Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jacksonville Jaguars running back, whether he would try to play through a concussion or take himself out of a game, and he provides a straightforward answer.

"Hide it," the NFL's rushing leader said. "The bottom line is, you have to be able to put food on the table. No one's going to sign or want a guy who can't stay healthy.

"I know there will be a day when I'm going to have trouble walking. I realise that. But this is what I signed up for. Injuries are part of the game. If you don't want to get hit, then you shouldn't be playing."

Other players say they would do the same.

In a series of interviews about head injuries, 23 of 44 NFL players told the Associated Press they would try to conceal a possible concussion rather than pull themselves out of a game. Some acknowledged they already have.

Players also said they should be better protected from their own instincts: More than two-thirds of the players interviewed said they would like to see independent neurologists on sidelines during games.

The interviews were with a cross-section of players - at least one from each of the 32 NFL teams - to gauge whether concussion safety and attitudes about head injuries have changed in the past two years. The group included 33 starters and 11 reserves; 25 players on offence and 19 on defence; all have played at least three seasons in the NFL.

The players tended to indicate they are more aware of the possible long-term effects of jarring hits to their heads than they once were. In a sign of the sort of progress the league wants, five players said that while they would have tried to conceal a concussion during a game in 2009, now they would seek help.

"You look at some of the cases where you see some of the retired players and the issues that they're having now, even with some of the guys who've passed and had their brains examined - you see what their brains look like now," said London Fletcher, the Washington Redskins linebacker, the NFL's leading tackler. "That does play a part in how I think now about it."

But his teammate, back-up fullback Mike Sellers, said he has hidden concussions in the past and would "highly doubt" that any player would willingly take himself out of a game.

"You want to continue to play. You're a competitor. You're not going to tell on yourself. There have been times I've been dinged, and they've taken my helmet from me, and I'd snatch my helmet back and get back on the field," Sellers said.

"A lot of guys wouldn't say anything because a lot of guys wouldn't think anything during the game, until afterward, when they have a headache or they can't remember certain things."

Justin Smith, the San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman, captured a popular sentiment: Players know of the potential problems, yet would risk further damage.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out if [you have] a concussion, you're probably damaging your brain a little bit. Just like if you sprain your wrist a bunch, you're going to have some wrist problems down the road.

"Yeah, I'd still play through it. It's part of the game. I think if you're noticeably messed up, yeah, they'll take you out. But if you've just got some blurry vision, I'd say that's the player's call. And most guys - 99 per cent of guys in the NFL - are going to play through it."

Smith said he sustained one concussion in high school ("You don't know who you are," is how he described it) and another in college ("Walking around the whole time, but I don't remember anything until six hours later").

The NFL likes to say that views about concussions have shifted from simply accepting they are part of the sport to doing what is possible to lessen impacts. Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about "changing the culture", so players do not try to "walk it off" after taking hits to the head.

Yet the Associated Press interview with players showed there is room for more adjustments, which did not surprise Dr Richard Ellenbogen, the co-chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee.

"The culture change takes awhile," Ellenbogen said. "Why would these guys want to go out? They love playing the game. They don't want to leave their team. They want to win.

"I understand all that. And that's why we have to be on our toes with coming up with exams that are hard to beat, so to speak."

Zach Strief, the New Orleans Saints offensive lineman, put it this way: "We all grew up with, 'Hey, get back in there. You [only] got your bell rung'. And while it's changing now, I think it's going to take time for the mindset to change."

A few players said they would be particularly inclined to hide a concussion if it happened in a play-off game or the Super Bowl. Some said their decision would depend on the severity of a head injury - but they would hide it if they could.

Clearly, there is a stigma associated with leaving the field, no matter the reason. One player who said he would exit a game if he thought he might have a concussion did not want to be quoted on the subject.

Other findings from the survey:

Ÿ Asked whether the NFL should have independent neurologists at games to examine players and determine if they should be held out because of concussions, 31 players said "yes", and 10 said "no". Three did not answer.

"They've got guys looking at your uniform to make sure you're wearing the right kind of socks," said Quintin Mikell, the St Louis Rams safety. "Why not have somebody there to protect your head? I think we definitely should have that."

He said he has tried to clear his head and stay on the field "many times".

"I'll probably pay for it later in my life," Mikell said, "but at the same time, I'll probably pay for the alcohol that I drank or driving fast cars. It's one of those things that it just comes with the territory."

Ÿ Regarding concussions, 28 of the 44 players think playing in the NFL is safer now than in 2009, while 13 think it is the same and two think it is more dangerous.

One was not sure.

Those who think safety has improved gave credit to the rise in awareness; more fines for illegal hits; this season's changes to kick-off rules that have cut down on the number of returns; and the new labour contract's reduction in the amount of contact allowed in practice.

"When I first came into the league, it was like, 'Whatever goes'. It was more of that old-school, just 'beat-him-up' football. Not wanting to hurt anybody, but show how tough you were.

"Back in the day, it was like if you come out [of a game] with [a] slight concussion, then you weren't giving it all for your team," said Andra Davis, the Buffalo Bills linebacker. "But now, they're taking that option away from you."

Davis, a 10th-year veteran, said he has had a couple of concussions. He is one of those whose view on seeking help for such injuries has changed.

"The younger me would definitely hide it," Davis said.

"But the older me now - with wife and kids and looking more at life after football - I would say something about it."

Ÿ Asked whether more can be done to protect players from head injuries, 18 players said "yes" and 24 said "no". Two did not respond.

Players on opposite sides of the ball generally drifted toward opposing views: Those on offence seemed more likely than those on defence to say more can - and should - be done to improve safety.

Linemen, meanwhile, often complained that there is no way to improve their plight, with the helmet-to-helmet banging that takes place at the snap on play after play.

One player described those collisions as "micro-episodes that build up over time".

Nearly three-quarters of the players who said they think safety can improve - 13 of 18 - suggested equipment can be improved, too. Helmet technology, mouth guards and chin straps all were mentioned.

Two players suggested more education about concussions is needed.

Little-discussed until reporting by The New York Times led to an October 2009 congressional hearing on concussions in the NFL, head injuries are now part of the daily conversation about professional football. Last Saturday alone, two starting quarterbacks, Cleveland's Colt McCoy and Arizona's Kevin Kolb, sat out because of head injuries, while a third, Minnesota's Christian Ponder, left his team's game with what his coach called "concussion-like symptoms".

At least eight lawsuits have been filed against the NFL in recent months - including three within the last week - by dozens of former players who say they have medical problems related to brain injuries from their time in professional football. The NFL's stance, in part, is that players knew there were risks of injury, and there was no misconduct or liability on the league's part.

"It's a physical sport. Guys are going to get hit in the head," Brent Celek, the Philadelphia Eagles tight end, said.

"It's not like, 'Oh, I'm going to play this because my head's going to be fine when I'm done playing'. It's a risk you take playing this game, but I think the league is doing everything in their power to make it as safe as possible."

And while the players tend to feel better about the way concussions are handled now than in 2009, they will not deny that dangers lurk.

"You're never going to be totally safe from concussions in this game," said Stanford Routt, the Oakland Raiders cornerback. "This is the only place where you can actually legally assault people."

Article found at

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Concussion and Suspensions in the NFL

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 19, 2011 09:00

In preparation for Week 15 of the NFL season, let’s ponder some burning questions involving the league’s movers, shakers and touchdown makers.

How should the NFL handle the Colt McCoy concussion fallout?
It is time for the league to get serious about independent testing.

Everything up until now has been lip service regarding the treatment of concussions suffered on the field. If the NFL is so concerned about the health and welfare of its players, it already would have had an independent neurologist on the sidelines for all games as part of its recent collective-bargaining agreement.

Instead, it has another huge problem on its hands.

An independent neurologist should be part of all future games following the severe concussion suffered by Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on Dec. 8 in a matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Browns. An illegal helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers linebacker James Harrison left McCoy crumpled on the turf for a long stretch and required medical assistance from the Browns’ staff.

Incredibly, McCoy returned to the field moments later.

After the game, he complained of being in a "funk." Postgame reports indicated he became startled by a loud noise in the locker room and asked for the bright lights on television cameras to be turned off.

It was clear to everyone around him that he had suffered a concussion.

Everyone but the Browns.

The team at first denied he had suffered a concussion. Then it explained the team’s coach and medical staff failed to properly diagnose the concussion symptoms during the game because its doctors were preoccupied with other players suffering from concussions. All of which is true, but nonetheless is an inadequate response.

The fact he never got checked on the sideline is disturbing beyond belief.

The reason McCoy didn’t communicate his obvious concussion symptoms is because, frequently, the full effects of head trauma are not immediate. Adrenaline is pumping throughout his veins after such a violent collision on the field, so it’s no surprise he talked his way back into the game two plays later.

A player is in no condition to diagnose his own concussion.


The NFL needs to institute the following protocols:

1. An independent neurologist must be assigned to all NFL games and must be the only medical authority who clears a player to return to the field after a concussion or suspected head trauma. It is absurd for teams to use their own medical staff to make these determinations. The NFL has a long, sorry history of team doctors being influenced by coaching staffs whose highest priority is winning, not the health of players.

"I think it would help," Browns left tackle Joe Thomas told reporters. "If you give an independent neurologist just one thing to look for on both sides, then he can just focus on exactly that. We’ve got enough other people that check jerseys and watch for socks to be pulled up and everything else.

"Why don’t you have somebody that’s watching for concussions?," he wondered. "They’re making the refs try to look for it, too. They’ve got enough things to worry about, just like the coaches."

2. Any player requiring medical attention for suspected head trauma must be taken to the locker room and evaluated there. To conduct concussion testing on the field or on the sideline is a complete joke. Even officials go under a hood to view replay challenges as far off the field as possible to block out all distractions.

"We need to find a way to standardize everything and make it so there is no gray area, and there’s no question this has revealed the system might need to change a little bit – not with the Browns, but with the entire league," Browns tight end Evan Moore told reporters. "We’ve got to protect players, no question about it."

It’s not Browns coach Pat Shurmur’s fault McCoy went back onto the field.

Shurmur is preoccupied with the game and relies on medical staff to tell him what’s best for the player.

Nor is it the fault of the team medical staff, who didn’t see the hit as it happened because they were busy treating other players at the time. If McCoy seems fine at the moment, they’re just following the league rules by letting him return.

The problem is the league’s prehistoric protocols for handling concussions.

If the NFL is going to dispatch uniform police to every game to hand out fines for improper shoes, socks that are too long or inscriptions on towels, it had better put independent neurologists at all of its games.

Expecting officials to diagnose concussions on the field is just as ridiculous.

It is the pure definition of negligence for the NFL to keep letting this happen.

Is a one-game suspension for James Harrison enough?

Not even close.

The head-hunting Harrison refuses to change his practice of lowering his helmet and inflicting as much punishment as possible to opposing quarterbacks. Yet, the NFL chooses to banish him for just one game?

The league’s attempts at disciplining Harrison are an outrage.

He is a repeat offender multiple times. He has a bad reputation for lowering his helmet at impact. He must learn he doesn’t need to lead with his helmet to make a tackle.

Yet, for doing so, he gets a one-game suspension.

Meanwhile, the league suspended Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh two games for a "stomp" that inflicts no harm upon Green Bay Packers guard Evan-Dietrich Smith.

If it’s a "SportsCenter" highlight that maims a quarterback but happens between the whistles, that’s one game.

If it ends up being a viral YouTube clip on Thanksgiving Day during a national telecast that happens after the whistle but then leads to a public uproar, despite no one being hurt, that’s two games.

Yep, makes sense.


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Former NFL Players sue League over Concussion and Durg Effects

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 8, 2011 09:00

Twelve former professional football players have sued the National Football League, claiming the league failed to inform them of the true risks of concussions and routinely used a drug that increased the likelihood of cerebral bleeding in players with head injuries.

Filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark, the suit by the players, including former New York Giant Jim Finn, says that despite "overwhelming medical evidence" that on-field concussions led directly to brain injuries and had tragic repercussions for retired players, the NFL failed to protect active players from suffering a similar fate and failed to inform players of the true risks.

The suit is the most recent brought by former players who accuse the league of concealing the harmful effects of concussions, but it appears to be the first to shine a spotlight on the use of Toradol, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that the players say they were given before games to reduce pain.

The lawsuit said Toradol masks pain, preventing the feeling of injury. In a press release, attorneys for the players said medical experts have also found that the drug induces greater cerebral bleeding, "greatly increasing the risk of long-term brain damage."

According to the complaint, players would line up in a "cattle call" before games to receive injections of the drug.

The players, who claim they suffer from mental impairment and other maladies, including short-term memory loss, depression, and migraines, say they did not receive any warnings about the drug's effect on head injuries.

"Plaintiffs were thus medicated without proper warnings, without proper consent, and without knowledge of the risks posed by the use of Toradol," the suit says.


The suit accuses the league of negligence, fraud, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation and conspiracy. The players are seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement that the NFL has made and continues to make player safety a "priority."

"Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit and stands in contrast to the league's actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions," McCarthy said.

The players' attorneys said in a release that their clients were ready to file suit months before any of the other NFL cases were brought, but held off after the league invited players to collaborate in forming a "global traumatic brain injury compensation fund" that would compensate them for their injuries. But after the NFL lockout earlier this year, the league struck a new collective-bargaining agreement that included concussion-related benefits that are less favorable than the terms discussed with the players, the attorneys said.

"The NFL pulled an end-run around our clients, in a move that added insult to their injuries," Christopher Seeger, who represents the players, said in the release. "Our clients were assured by the League's attorneys that senior NFL officials, including the Commissioner, were committed to forming a sizable compensation fund, but despite months of direct negotiations, the League ultimately chose not to honor their commitment," Seeger of Seeger Weiss said.

A spokesman for the NFL declined to comment further on the matter.

The case is Jim Finn et al v. National Football League, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. Case number not immediately known.

For the players: Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss; James Cecchi of Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody & Agnello; and Marc Albert of the Law Offices of Mark S. Albert.

For the NFL: Not immediately known.


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NFL Players Fear Head Injuries

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 6, 2011 21:00

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said he does not plan to change his style of play despite fears that he might eventually take a blow to the head that could result in serious long-term damage to his brain.

Speaking publicly for the first time Friday since he was knocked out of Sunday's win over Kansas City Chiefs because of what he and coach Mike Tomlin called "concussion-like" symptoms, the All-Pro safety said he feels good. He went through his second consecutive full practice Friday and is listed as probable and expected to play in Sunday's AFC North showdown between the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.


Polamalu would not answer, however, when pressed on whether he had actually suffered a concussion, reported. It was a continuation of the Steelers' reluctance to officially call it a concussion.

Polamalu did concede that he plays with a perpetual internal struggle between the constant threat of serious injury and not letting it affect his performance.

"That's the fear I think that any player faces," he said. "And that's the fear that any individual faces, overcoming any certain fears of being a coward, you know, and letting your teammates down or turning down a hit. That's the beautiful thing about sports is these fears are right in your face and it's pretty obvious if you turn them down or not.

"Oh, I have the fear, no question about it," Polamalu added. "But I'm willing to fight it, for sure."

Sunday was the second time in six weeks Polamalu left a game early with a head injury. Counting high school, college and the pros, Polamalu has been diagnosed with at least seven concussions.

Polamalu, known for his torpedo-like tackles, said he knows no other way to play.

"I don't know if it's possible, at this point, to change a style of play," he said via "I think that's the case for anybody in the NFL, especially regarding the rules and fines that we have.

They're going to continue to happen, just because we're instinctual players at this point. Of course we're professional athletes, but it's still tough to change these habits we've formed since we were eight years old."

Polamalu isn't the only Steelers star who had full participation in practice Friday and is considered probable to play Sunday.

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is expected to start against the Bengals, too.

Woodley hasn't played since Oct. 30.


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100 Former NFL Players Contribute to Neurology Study

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   November 19, 2011 12:07

It is widely known that football players suffer a range of injuries on the field. Recently, brain damage has become the highlighted injury because it builds up over time and its effects are commonly observed years after retirement from the game.

Now, researchers are working with former NFL players, studying their brains to develop methods for better diagnosis of brain function and damage. Currently, the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is working with more than 70 donated brains from athletes who have died, and they hope to enroll living retired players to learn more about the development of later in life conditions. 

For their study, researchers are interested in NFL players who have played on the field and in position with significant contact, indicating higher potential for repeated brain trauma. In general, long football careers ensure an extensive history of injury to the head. However, recorded multiple concussions are not a requirement for the study because in some situations, players do not know when they had a concussion, and brain damage can occur from repeated blows to the head. The brain function and structure of former NFL players are being compared with non-contact sport athletes, such as retired swimmers and tennis players.
This brain research is not only helping former player receive treatment, but the results from the study will have major effects on future players. With a documented link between brain damage and the sport, more safeguards and regulations may be put in place to protect the players and reduce injury.In addition, the researchers are interested in learning about the genetics behind Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy(CTE). It is still unknown why some athletes who receive repeated head blows develop CTE, while others do not develop this condition.
The funding grant is also supported by the National Institute of Neurologic Diseases and Stroke, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. This team of researchers spans over 20 co-investigators, including researchers at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.

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High School Football Player Died from a Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   October 18, 2011 17:00

Authorities say a 16-year-old high school football player who died after collapsing during a game suffered bleeding on his brain, apparently from a helmet-to-helmet collision.

Cortland County Coroner Kevin Sharp says Ridge Barden died from a massive subdural hematoma, a traumatic brain injury.

The lineman for John C. Birdlebough High School in the Oswego County village of Phoenix was hurt during Friday night's game at Homer High School, south of Syracuse. Authorities say he was able to sit up after the play but complained of a headache and collapsed when he tried to stand.

Sharp says there's no evidence of any pre-existing injury or condition that contributed to Barden's death.

He says the fatal injury was consistent with the helmet-to-helmet hit reported between Barden and another player.


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