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Three H.S. Football Players Died After Collapsing on the Field in Past 10 Days

A New York high school football player died after collapsing on the field Wednesday, becoming the third reported death among high school football players within the past week-and-a-half, according to Newsday's Jim Baumbach.

Tom Cutinella, who attended Shoreham-Wading River High School in Long Island, collided with an opponent from John Glenn High School during the third quarter of a game on Wednesday while blocking for a teammate, Newsday's Darran Simon and Deon J. Hampton reported. He "fell to the ground, got up, and collapsed almost immediately on Glenn's field during the third quarter," per Simon and Hampton.

It took 10 minutes for emergency responders to reach Cutinella, according to Newsday's Laura Albanese and Stephen Haynes. An ambulance took him to a local hospital, where he died in the intensive care unit following surgery.

Shoreham-Wading River coach Matt Millheiser told Baumbach that Cutinella took a "big hit" before collapsing. The player's official cause of death has yet to be released, but police and school officials "believe it's the result of a head injury," according to Baumbach.

"This is a tragic loss that leaves us without words to express the depth of our sorrow," said superintendent Steven Cohen in a statement posted on the district's website. "Our condolences to his family and all who were touched by this outstanding young man taken too soon.  Let the memories he built in our lives be carried on as a tribute to his time with us, and the great impact he had on us."

During a press conference Thursday, Cohen called Cutinella's death "the result of a typical football play" and "a freak accident." Jack Costas, a member of the district's school board, told Newsday that the board was "expecting to get a full report, find out exactly what happened and do an audit of our equipment and, if there is some way to ensure safer play, then, obviously we're going to have to make some adjustments."

Cutinella wasn't the only high school football player to die after collapsing on the field in recent days.

Demario Harris Jr., a cornerback at Charles Henderson High School in Troy, Ala., collapsed on the field moments after making a tackle during a game on the evening of Sept. 26, according to Ben Thomas of AL.com. After spending two days in the intensive care unit, he was pronounced dead this past Sunday, per Josh Bean of AL.com.

Charles Henderson coach Brad McCoy told AL.com Saturday that, per a neurologist, Harris had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. "It wasn't a major collision on the sideline or anything like that," he said. "The doctors told me it could have happened in his sleep or walking down the hallway."

His father, Demario Harris Sr., refuted those claims on Facebook.

"My son had a brain hemorrhage, not an aneurysm, that was caused by a hit he took during Fridays game," Harris Sr. wrote. "He may have had a pre-existing condition but there is no way to tell now."

In Rolesville, N.C., Isaiah Langston of Rolesville High School died after collapsing on the field before a game on Sept. 26, per Andrea Blanford of ABC11.com. His older brother Aijalon told Blanford that Isaiah's collapse had something to do with a blood clot in his brain, although he was uncertain about the official cause of death.

If there's a major takeaway from all three recent deaths, it's this: The importance of having trained medical experts on hand at all high school sporting events can't be understated. Every second counts in a life-or-death situation, and as these incidents suggest, a youth-athlete who appears perfectly healthy on the outside could have a major underlying concern ready to surface at any moment.

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