Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Archive for May 26th, 2009

As the Stinson turns (big break for the defense edition)

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player-thumbIt’s a shame that Max Gilpin, the 15-year-old who died after a football practice last August in Louisville, Ky., is growing more and more of a footnote in the aftermath of his demise. But that’s how it goes when stuff like this happens.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A Bullitt County circuit judge this morning [Tuesday] issued a domestic violence order against Jeffery Dean Gilpin, the father of the Pleasure Ridge Park football player who died after he collapsed at a practice.

During a court hearing, Gilpin’s wife, Lois Louise Gilpin, alleged that her husband had been abusive in the past and had recently threatened harm if she did anything to “dishonor” her stepson, Max Gilpin, who died at a practice on Aug. 23.

Jeff Gilpin, represented by attorneys, denied the allegations.

Nevertheless, Judge Elise Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin to avoid all contact with his wife and to enter anger counseling, along with grief counseling. The pair plan to divorce, they said.

“I’m very sorry you lost your child,” Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin. “You need to try to salvage your life. You don’t want to live in a sea of anger.”

Gilpin already has one ex-wife: Max’s mother, who is joining him in filing a civil lawsuit against former coach David Jason Stinson, as well as other coaches and the Louisville school district. They filed on the basis of wrongful death, saying Stinson denied water to players and pushed them too hard on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees.

But what really made Max Gilpin’s case stand out is that Stinson is facing an August court date after a grand jury indicted him on reckless homicide charges as a result of the player’s death.

Presumably, Jeff Gilpin’s home life shouldn’ t have anything to do with Stinson’s guilt or innocence. But for sure Stinson’s lawyers will be poring through his divorce filings (if they haven’t already) looking for anything they can use. Already, Jeff Gilpin did them a favor during his civil trial deposition by saying he wasn’t sure that Stinson denied anyone water — a key fact on which the civil and criminal cases turn.

Stinson’s attorneys are going to be especially aggressive not only because they have a client to defend, but also because they know (thanks to the contributions they’re receiving from coaches nationwide) that Stinson’s guilt or innocence is going to have a profound effect on coaches’ authority. Especially their authority to inflict physical punishment like “gassers,” the sprint drills Stinson was alleged to have his players run because of a perceived lack of hustle, a coaching technique as old as coaching itself. With that at stake, and with his father’s personal foibles coming into the spotlight, it’s unfortunate Max Gilpin himself is more and more of an afterthought and symbol than a boy who died tragically.

Until it hurts… not so much

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cover-of-until-it-hurts1Great news! According to a study published in the online version of the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of youth baseball-related injuries reported by the nation’s hospital emergency departments dropped 24.9 percent between 1994 and 2006. The study’s authors said better safety equipment — helmets, mouth guards, breakaway bases — have gone a long way toward reducing the injury rate.

Bad news! According to that same study, the decrease also could be because there are more options than the hospital emergency room these days. For example, when my son hurt himself playing basketball, I took him to an urgent care center, not the hospital. Those visits would not show up in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the source data for the Pediatrics study. Also, overuse injuries are not the most likely to show up in the emergency department.

Still, even if the numbers aren’t 100 percent surefire, they’re still interesting. Your kid’s most likely injury, if you’re taking him to the hospital emergency room: soft tissue damage (mostly, meaning bruising) to the face (13.2 percent) and lacerations (cuts) to the face (also, 13.2 percent). Basically, getting hit in the face with a ball is the biggest injury problem. It’s a strong argument for masks on batting helmets, and masks for pitchers, first base and third base, the kind you see softball players wearing. Being hit the ball results in 46 percent of all injuries recorded in the study, while being hit by the bat is next at 24.9 percent. Getting injured while sliding ranked third, at 9.6 percent, but it ranked first, at 30.9 percent, for cause of fractures, a rate weighted by the higher incidence of sliding injuries among those 13 to 17.

The study itself notes the criticism of NEISS data because it doesn’t track much of anything beyond age of player and injury — no notes on days missed playing, or whether it was in a league or casual game, or what position a player was on the field when the injury occurred. The NEISS, and study, doesn’t track whether an injury was caused by overuse. So the study is mostly just an interesting little read. But it still gives a few clues into how and why kids get hurt, and what adults can do to lessen those chances while keeping the game loose and fun.