Head injuries are a significant issue at every level of football, but that fact is truly hitting home with football fans across the nation in the wake of Arizona high school football player Charles Youvella's untimely death.
According to Chris Williams and Richard Obert of AZCentral.com, Youvella suffered a critical head injury during Keams Canyon Hopi High School's Division V playoff game against Arizona Lutheran Academy on Saturday night.
Youvella, who was a 5'5" senior running back and defensive back for Hopi, suffered the injury with his team trailing 60-6 in the fourth quarter. According to Williams and Obert's report, the tackle seemed harmless at first, but Youvella's head hit the ground hard. He remained in the game for two more plays before collapsing.
Although Youvella was conscious, alert and talking when he was taken to the hospital, his condition quickly worsened. He was in critical condition when he arrived at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and ultimately passed away on Monday.
Hopi head coach Steve Saban called the diminutive Youvella a tough and fearless player, according to Obert:
Just a great kid. Pound for pound, by far the toughest kid I ever coached. He had the heart of a lion. He was 5-5 and 115 pounds ringing wet. But he played 10 times that size. ...
Like in life, when you’re born, there are no guarantees. It’s just real unfortunate. Charles was just a great kid. Always positive. I’ve never seen someone that small in stature have a heart of a lion. He had no fear.
Saban viewed Hopi's playoff game as a celebration going in—one that was abruptly cut short as the school and Youvella's family suffered a devastating loss:
It’s just unbelievable. It’s at that stage where it’s not set in fully, that state of shock and disbelief.
We were celebrating a beautiful season, a great time down there. The game was just a bonus. Then tragedy happens.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has offered his support as well. The potential future Hall of Fame receiver tweeted a picture of Youvella and asked his followers to pray for the fallen high schooler:
Youvella's death is the latest example of how dangerous the sport of football can be. Just two months ago, 16-year-old Damon Janes died in New York due to injuries suffered in a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Head injuries are even a concern for players at the highest level, and this serves as a reminder that measures must continue to be taken in order to provide proper safety for players of all ages.
Hopefully this tragedy leads to further advancements that will prevent these types of incidents from occurring in the future.
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