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Parents Speak Out on Catastrophic Youth Sports Injuries
Date:12/30/2011

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- On Aug. 22, 2008, sophomore Matt Gfeller, 15, played in his first varsity high school football game at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"We were all there," Lisa Gfeller, his mother, recalled. "There's a sort of privilege in that."

She recalled the hit that caused the concussion: "The other boy was a bit bigger, but Matthew wasn't small. He wasn't carrying the football, neither was the other boy. It was a trap block. One tremendous blow -- helmet to helmet. I know the boy did not mean to hurt him," she added.

"Matt sustained a massive brain injury and never woke up," his mother said. He died two days later, on Aug. 24.

She said it was "chaos" on the field that evening, with a delay getting Matt to the hospital caused in part by the need to call a second, critical care ambulance.

Kevin Guskiewicz is a certified athletic trainer and professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An expert in traumatic brain injury, he and the Gfellers connected not long after Matt's death.

"We don't know if getting Matt to a medical facility 15 or 20 minutes sooner would have saved his life," Guskiewicz said, "but we want to be sure that the next time a case like that occurs, that proper planning is in place to get that child to a medical center in time."

Earlier this month, medical experts and concerned parents appeared on Capitol Hill for a summit on young athletes suffering critical injuries on the playing field. Among them were bereaved parents such as Lisa Gfeller, who have turned personal tragedies into advocacy efforts to prevent others from facing similar losses.

At the summit, hosted by the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, members of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) called for better prevention, recognition and treatment of emergencies at sporting events and practices, outlin
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