Football games aren’t supposed to end this way. Competitors are supposed to shake hands and go their separate ways, but instead Dwire Field was hushed last Friday night at the sight of two Oak Hills players laying motionless on the soaked turf while emergency medical personnel prepared to load them into ambulances. With a little over a minute to play in the Highlanders’ win over the Comets, Oak Hills senior defensive backs Cary Jones and Khiren Beamon collided head on during a play reminding everyone of the violence of football.
While the sport is currently trying to find ways to curb the rash of concussions and head related injuries, the fact still remains that football is a collision sport where severe and possibly catastrophic injuries are always a risk. It’s that risk that coaches and players are keenly aware of yet choose not to focus on in order to play the game they love.
Mason senior running back Matt Stewart said that the he tries to block out the looming possibility of an injury from his mind, and doesn’t even pay attention to the ambulance on the side of the field.
“The reality is that it is a very violent game,” Stewart said. “We just try not to think about it…We just try to go through practice, play a
game and just do the best that we can do and not really worry about anything.”
In the past two months, five high school football players have died from sports injuries. Two of these deaths were due to brain injuries. Despite the attention on football and the long term effects of head injuries Mason head coach Brian Castner said that while the risk of an injury is present, coaches choose not to focus on this negative aspect of football.
“When something happens like that we try to focus on the positive as much as possible, that they are going to recover, and we’re hoping for good health,” Castner said.
Castner said that he teaches players proper technique to limit injuries.
“During the season we teach them from day one to the last day of the season how to properly tackle somebody,” Castner said.
According to Castner, Jones’ and Beamon’s technique when colliding prevented the injury from being even worse.
Oak Hills head coach Dan Scholz said that football equipment is advanced, and while it cannot stop all injuries, it can lessen them.
“With technology today, our equipment is state of the art, and incredibly protective,” Scholz said. “Accidents happen. Injuries occur. But if you train very hard in the off season, and during the season you can make your body ready for the physicality of the game, and reduce the amount of potential injuries.”
Football players are driven by their passion for the sport, even though an injury could prove catastrophic, according to Stewart.
“We play it because we love it, we play it because it’s fun,” Stewart said. “But the reality is that in one second, it all can change and it can be taken away from you.”