Hopi High School football player Charles Youvella died Monday in a Valley hospital from a traumatic brain injury suffered during his team’s playoff game Saturday against Arizona Lutheran Academy.
Arizona Interscholastic Association Chief Operating Officer Chuck Schmidt told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos Tuesday that the AIA is still figuring how Youvella’s injury was so devastating and that they’re waiting for the medical examiner’s report.
USA Today Sports reports Youvella was taken down in what appeared to be a “typical football tackle,” and hit his head on the ground. The Hopi wide receiver reportedly got up quickly and lined up for two more plays before collapsing on the field. He was then taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix.
“First and foremost, there’s been a response and an outpouring of love and support for the Youvella family,” Schmidt said. “The second thing is that the discussion is taking place, which is happening nationally, and that is, ‘How do we make football safer? How do we preserve the game?'”
Schmidt said he doesn’t know if a single play led to Youvella’s death or if it was a culmination of hits sustained throughout his playing career. He said parents should be aware that if their child suffers a concussion, they need to take it seriously.
He said that the culture of football has changed to where there is an increased focus on the safety of players — from making sure they don’t get dehydrated to being more cautious with how they return from injuries.
“And this is another culture change that we have to be aware of, and that if you get your bell rung, there are things you need to do,” Schmidt said.
The COO said players who suffer traumatic hits to the head need to, among other measures, rest and limit computer use — the latter because people are more sensitive to certain lights after sustaining such an injury.
Schmidt said the AIA has required, for the last three years, that coaches and officials take a concussion education course so they can identify symptoms of the injury.
“And now, per our rules as well as state law, that student has to come off the field and cannot return to play unless they have been cleared to do so in that game or back to practice by a qualified medical professional,” he said.
Schmidt also praised Arizona Lutheran officials and medical professionals, saying they were “unbelievable” in their response to Youvella’s injury.
As far as whether any measures will be taken to prevent similar traumatic injuries and make the game safer, Schmidt said he’s staying patient until he learns more about what caused the receiver’s death.
“Let’s wait and see what happened. Let’s get the medical examiner’s report; I’m not a doctor. And let’s find out exactly what happened, and then we’re going to respond to that.”