The Washington Times recently published an in-depth article into the death of Derek Sheely, a fullback at Frostburg State University who collapsed during football practice and never regained consciousness. The official cause of death was traumatic brain injury.
Until an email arrived from a John Doe who identified himself as a teammate of Derek’s, the family thought the death was a tragic accident. John Doe told of negligence by Frostburg coaches, staff and a head coach who belittled Derek for complaining of a headache moments before he collapsed. A concussion test was never performed on Derek who had a head injury bandaged four times from the initial injury two days prior to his collapse.
All of this equals a tragedy but the lack of action by the university and NCAA catapult this to a tragedy that is unbelievable and could readily have been prevented. Derek’s mother wrote a letter to the president of the NCAA and received a four-paragraph reply of sympathies, and then coldly directed her to the organization’s health and safety website. The university promised an inquiry but at press time, no players on the field that day had been contacted for questioning by the school or NCAA. The head coach who told Derek to stop griping was revealed to have a slew of charges from drugs, and trespassing to driving under the influence. Video of the Derek collapsing has disappeared.
Most troubling is the climate around football and injuries. The motto of Frostburg’s team policy in 2011 was “great champions can distinguish between pain and injury.” Players who complained of injury had to clean the field after practice. The NCAA’s “bible” of regulations lists such details as logo size, how big a notecard may be and mentions recruits 495 times; concussions are given 195 words. In a deposition this year in an unrelated federal lawsuit, former NCAA director of health and safety admitted the concussion rule