Investigators today ruled out heat as the cause of death for one of the two Texas high school players who died after collapsing during practice this weekend.
Harris County medical examiner Joye Carter said today that an enlarged heart, not heat exhaustion, killed 14-year-old Leonard Carter Jr.
Carter, who would have started his sophomore year at Houston's Lamar High School today, collapsed during practice on Saturday and died two hours later. Family members said doctors at Texas Children's Hospital told them the boy's body temperature was 107 degrees, but Carter said that reading was wrong. His temperature, she said, was actually 100.7 degrees and heat played a minimal role in his death.
Carter's death came less than 24 hours after 15-year-old Stephen Taylor of Luling, Texas died following a football practice. Early reports indicate that Taylor died of heart failure, but tests were being done to determine if heat played a role. Officials are still waiting for autopsy results.
Unlike when Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer collapsed at a practice earlier this month, the weather was not unusually hot in Texas over the weekend. Temperatures were only in the 80s on Saturday, though humidity was extremely high.
There have been 11 football related deaths this year, three of which were determined to be the direct result of heatstroke. The Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury says that is about average.
Emulating Their Heroes
Leonard Carter's father said one thing that could be done is to have paramedics at practices, just as they are at games.
"I think we need to take some type of measures to monitor our children and to have the appropriate emergency equipment and personnel at these practices," Leonard Carter Sr., said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "I mean, there are paramedics at the football games. They're there, but they're not at our practices."
Carter is the third high school football player to die after a practice this summer, but even before the high schoolers took to the fields, there had been two other high- profile deaths in the sport besides Stringer's. In July, University of Florida freshman Eraste Austin collapsed of heatstroke and died, and earlier this month Northwestern University safety Rashidi Wheeler suffered an asthma attack during wind sprints and died.
On Wednesday, a player in Georgia collapsed during practice and then died. Medical examiners are awaiting lab results in the death of the 13-year-old boy, who was working out with his team in humid weather with the heat index near 100 degrees.
While the deaths would have seemed likely to send out a warning to coaches and players to take it easier during practices, Carter says the lesson children get from their elders is not about backing off.
"The kids want to emulate their heroes," Carter said. "They're going to do everything possible. They see Barry Sanders. They see Terrell Davis. But these kids are 14 years old, 15 years old. … I want these kids to know, if they're tired, if they took a hard hit, don't be scared to say I'm tired and walk to the sideline."
Responding to the Dangers
Leonard Carter Sr. said his son may have wanted to prove something on Saturday, trying to make his mark at the school he had just transferred to in order to play for a top football program. Saturday was the first time the team had practiced in full pads, the boy's father said.
When Stringer died on Aug. 1, some team members and team officials said the Pro Bowl offensive tackle had been disappointed with himself the day before, when they said the exceptionally hot weather had slowed him down.
They said that Stringer, considered a team leader in the locker room and on the field as well as being one of the Vikings most involved in community programs, was determined to set an example for the many younger players on the team.
He reportedly collapsed and vomited several times before finally succumbing to the heat. His body temperature was 108 degrees before he died. ABCNEWS' Bryan Robinson contributed to this report.