NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 16-year-old New York high school football player died at a Long Island hospital after colliding with an opponent during a varsity game, school officials said on Thursday.
The death of Tom Cutinella, a junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School in Shoreham, New York, comes at a time when awareness is already growing about the long-term health effects of head injuries in professional and youth sports, particularly football.
Cutinella died from a head wound he suffered during a game against Elwood John H. Glenn High School on Wednesday night, according to local media reports and Steven Cohen, superintendent of Shoreham-Wading River Schools.
“Our school community is truly devastated by this awful news and we all extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family and friends during this difficult time,” Cohen said in a statement.
Cutinella, who played guard and linebacker for Wading River, collapsed while blocking for a teammate, Newsday reported.
Cutinella also played lacrosse and was a member of the school’s Natural Helpers program, a volunteer peer-helping program.
“He excelled academically, had a great sense of humor and was just a great individual overall,” Cohen said.
Across the country, eight high school football players died last year from injuries, including those to the brain and spine, directly related to the playing the sport, according the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research.
Nine high school players died in some indirect way, such as suffering heat stroke during practice, the survey said.
Over the past decade, on average there have been three direct deaths of high school football players annually and nine indirect deaths a year, out of about 1 million players in the United States.
In May, President Barack Obama hosted a conference highlighting the risks of head injuries to young athletes. Also this year, the NCAA and the Department of Defense announced a $30 million study to reduce concussions in sports and the military.
Separately, the professional National Football League said it would spend $25 million over the next three years to promote youth sports safety.
The measures follow a landmark settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players who have brain damage and dementia as a result of concussions suffered on the field.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative disease brought on by repeated head trauma, is considered to be one of the most common brain disorders affecting former players.
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bill Trott, Doina Chiacu