Second youth player falls ill, dies

The death of the 11-year-old comes four days after another young Tampa athlete’s.

Published July 22, 2006

TAMPA — For the second time in less than a week, a child has died after falling ill during youth football league practice.

An 11-year-old boy who collapsed last week during football practice died Friday at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, an official of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League said.

The news comes just four days after another child on a different TBYFL team died after complaining to his coach at a field in Progress Village that he wasn’t feeling well.

“I’ve been taking it hard,” said Greg Thompson, athletic director of the Nuccio Jaguars team. “We’re more than about just football.”

At about 7:23 p.m. on July 12, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue received a call about a child who collapsed on the Nuccio Park football field.

Thompson said the day was overcast. Practice, which normally starts at 6:15 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., had been delayed due to the weather.

By about 7:15 p.m., as Thompson was heading inside to have a meeting with his board of directors, the players were finally out on the field, beginning their practice with the routine two laps around the field, he said.

Following the laps, one of the kids on the midget league complained to another coach  that he was feeling dizzy, Thompson said.

The coach told the youngster to kneel down and drink some water. Instead, the boy lay down and started to groan.
Another coach and a parent who is a paramedic ran over, thinking the child was having a seizure, Thompson said.

Ray Yeakley, a spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, said that when paramedics arrived at the park, at 4805 E Sligh Ave., the boy’s body temperature was 103.

By the time the ambulance reached the hospital, his fever was up to 106, despite paramedics applying ice to him.

The boy had been hospitalized since then and was on life support at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital until he died on Friday, Thompson said. This was confirmed by a hospital spokeswoman.

The coach for the Jaguars midget team stayed with the boy overnight that Wednesday, Thompson said, and has been in close contact with the family since.

On Monday, 12-year-old Bobby Stephens of Riverview died after practicing with the Progress Village Panthers.
According to the coaches of both teams, Bobby and the Nuccio player were both newcomers.

For Bobby, it was the first day of practice. The 11-year-old Nuccio player, whose name could not be confirmed Friday night, had attended a few of the team’s conditioning practices in recent weeks, but was new to the Jaguars.

Bobby died in the ambulance on the way to Brandon Regional Medical Center. The cause of death is still under review by a medical examiner.

“Maybe the coaches need additional training on looking for signs something is wrong,” said Yeakley, the spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, noting that the start of practice season can be particularly grueling for kids who might not be in top physical condition.

“They’ve got to transition these kids into it,” he said.

In the Tampa Bay area, there have been at least two other reported deaths following athletic practice in recent memory. In January 2005, a 17-year-old Alonso High baseball player collapsed and died following a running exercise. And in January of this year, an 8-year-old Pride Elementary boy collapsed and died after practicing with a local soccer club.

Thompson said he was trying to make sense of it as best he could. “When God calls you home, He calls you home. I don’t know when or why He does it.”

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report.