Football player dies from head injury sustained during game

Jonathan Wall

The towns of Phoenix and Homer, N.Y., are reeling from the shocking death of 16-year-old Ridge Barden, a high school football player at Phoenix High School who collapsed on the field during the third quarter of Friday night's game against Homer (N.Y.) High School.

As WSYR-TV in Syracuse reported, Barden collapsed on the field following a hard hit from an opposing player. After lying face down following the play, trainers rushed to his side and were able to get Barden to sit up. While he was coherent at the time, the 230-pound junior complained of a headache and then fell over when he tried to stand up.

That's when officials knew something was seriously wrong. Barden was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after. While the autopsy report hasn't been officially released, WSYR-TV obtained a copy of the report and noted that Barden had died from a hit during the game -- presumably the one he took prior to being rushed to the hospital.

According to police, autopsy results show Barden died of bleeding in the brain, due to blunt force trauma as the result of a football injury.

"It still is shocking. He's with us and he's gone," Barden's mother, Jacqueline, told WSYR-TV.

Barden's family was in disbelief following the news of their son's death, but even in the family's darkest hour, Barden's mother wanted the football players at Homer to know the injury wasn't their fault.

"He just would not want those people to think that it was their fault.  It was just an accident," Jacqueline Barden told WSYR-TV. "Everything that Ridge did, he did with full gust. I'd say just take that attitude with you."

Barden's death once again brings up a major issue regarding the safety of youth football. Plenty has been done over the years to make sure head injuries, such as Barden's, never happen again. But even the newest helmet technology and concussion regulations can't keep the sport from the vicious hits that occur on football fields across the country on a weekly basis.

To add emphasis to that point, two other football players were also hospitalized with head-related injuries on Thursday alone. In Texas, a North Mesquite (Texas) High junior varsity player was sent to the hospital following a scary collision which may have involved a pinched nerve in his neck, according to the Dallas Morning News. More worryingly, the Los Angeles Times reported that a Los Angeles (Calif.) High junior varsity player underwent brain surgery to relieve hemorrhaging after he collapsed on the sideline during his team's Thursday night game.

The state of New York enacted a Concussion Management Awareness Act earlier this year in an effort to make sure players don't take the field following a head injury. But Barden's death was sudden; nobody had any idea how serious the injury really was until he tried to stand up and collapsed.

Naturally, that makes his death all the more tragic and hard to comprehend.

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