High School Player Dies After Helmet-To-Helmet HitS

Damon Janes, a 16-year-old junior running back at Brocton (N.Y.) High School, died Monday after losing consciousness from a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game Friday night.

Janes took the hit in the third quarter of Brocton/Westfield's game against Portville, but was able to get to the sideline under his own power before collapsing, at which point the game was called off. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Buffalo, and never regained consciousness.

Students and parents gathered at the school Sunday night, and on Monday all of Brocton's students wore the school's colors. At the wishes of the family, the school district refrained from making public statements, but the coach of the opposing team expressed his sympathy.

Portville football coach Gary Swetland said Mr. Janes “was a running back — and a fine one.”

“Our heart goes out to the Janes family. It’s just a tragic, tragic circumstance,” Coach Swetland said. “Our players are saddened, our families are saddened, our school is saddened, our coaches are saddened, our officials are saddened, bus drivers, everybody. There is no one who isn’t desperately saddened by this.”

Brocton has canceled all sporting events and homecoming activities this week, and will make counseling available to students. But many in the small town have showed concern for the student who made the fatal tackle—by all accounts a clean, accidental hit.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at UNC, 25 high school players have died playing football from 2003-2012. Over the same time period, 78 suffered irreversible brain damage, and 71 received "catastrophic" cervical injuries.