Damon Janes, a 16-year-old running back for Brocton Central High School in upstate New York, has died in a Buffalo hospital from injuries suffered on the football field, the Buffalo News reported Monday. Janes lost consciousness after a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game against Portville High School Friday night.
Janes’ parents “wish to express their gratitude to those who have supported and prayed for Damon and his family,” a statement from the family said.
Janes is at least the fourth high school football player to die from injuries sustained on the field this season. 16-year-old Georgia high schooler De’Antre Turman also died in the hospital after fracturing a vertebrae during a scrimmage. In California, Tyler Lewellen, also 16, died several days after falling into a coma after a head-to-head hit during a scrimmage. And Louisiana high schooler Jaleel Gipson, 17, died after fracturing a vertebrae while making a tackle in practice.
Entering the 2013 season, there had been 25 football-related fatalities in high school football since 2003, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. The 2012 high school season was the first since 1990 in which no high school player died from injuries directly related to football.
The fatality rate among high school players has remained low in recent years. More than one football player died per 100,000 participants in every year but two from 1960 to 1976, according to the Center, but the rate has stayed below one-per-100,000 in every year since. Rule changes in 1976 banned “making initial contact with the head and face while blocking and tackling” in both high school and college football. Still, “football is associated with the greatest number of catastrophic injuries” at the high school and college levels, according to the Center’s reports, and with that in mind, high schools should continue exploring further rule changes that could reduce the occurrence of those injuries. Given that the hit that ultimately clean, though, reducing the catastrophic injury rate even further will be hard to do, if not impossible. These types of injuries, along with concussions that lead to long-term brain damage, may just be a part of playing the game.