Football game stopped after 18 players suffer hypothermia

Jonathan Wall
November 1, 2011

Plainview (N.Y.) John F. Kennedy High officials had a critical decision to make prior to Saturday's Homecoming game against Valley Stream (N.Y.) Central High. With near-freezing temperatures and driving rain coming down at game time, officials made the call to proceed with the game, despite serious concerns from parents and onlookers regarding the well-being of the students on the field.

As Plainview's Patch site reported, the decision to play the game turned out to be the wrong one, after the game was called at halftime when 18 players, all suffering from hypothermia, had to be rushed to the hospital. Firefighters on the scene told Patch that the players were all "shivering and disoriented" when medical personnel arrived.

The players on the field weren't the only ones suffering during the game; two onlookers were also treated for possible heart attacks during the game. The "mass casualty incident" got so bad, in fact, that mutual-aid had to be called in from four different towns.

School officials have already made it clear they'll be reviewing the decision-making process that went into playing the game as scheduled.

While all 18 players were treated and released from the hospital, parents from both schools are currently up in arms over the decision to even start the game in the first place.

"...Picked my son up from the hospital yesterday evening," Eberenz said. "He is doing fine. Let's get over the finger pointing...where do we go from here? (Is) anyone asking how (to) ensure this does not happen again?"

That seems to be the question on everyone's mind. Football players are bred to play in deplorable weather conditions, so the decision to start the game in driving rain and near-freezing temperatures doesn't seem like that big of a surprise.

But consider this: most of the high sports events on Long Island -- where the game was being played -- were canceled on Saturday. If a number of other schools decide to cancel games in the same area, you have to wonder what made school officials at Plainview-John F. Kennedy think it was ok to play the game in the first place.

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