Reporting Meghan McCorkell
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) — Helmet-to-helmet contact is the cause of death for a Frostburg State football player. Derek Sheely, 22, died during practice late last month.
Meghan McCorkell has the new details surrounding his death.
An autopsy reveals Sheely died from a traumatic brain injury. The university held a memorial service in his honor Tuesday night.
Friends say football was Sheely’s life, but it was the game that ended it.
“As Coach told me, God doesn’t make mistakes so we know this happened for a reason,” said Josh Volpe.
The senior collapsed during practice and died six days later. Volpe was on the field that day.
“It’s the game of football. It’s a collision sport. Injuries are going to happen. That’s all I’ll say,” Volpe said.
Helmet-to-helmet contact is blamed for Sheely’s death.
“He’s really the kind of young man that, like I said, would be the cornerstone of your program and he truly was,” said athletic director Troy Dell.
Sheely’s family says it was an accident. His death shines the spotlight on sports-related head injuries.
“The players are bigger, stronger, faster in this day and age than they were a generation ago,” said Dr. Andrew Tucker.
The NFL is trying to make the game safer by researching the long-term effects of head trauma on the brain. Tucker, head physician for the Ravens and chief of Union Memorial Sports Medicine, is involved with the study, along with Ravens center Matt Birk, who will donate his brain to the study after he dies.
“Football is something I’m passionate about. If I donated my brain, I could hopefully make the game in some way safer for future players,” Birk said.
Sheely wore a helmet designed to protect players from concussions, but they aren’t fool-proof.
“They will never prevent all head injuries and all concussions,” Tucker said.
Frostburg University officials say they will review the medical examiner’s findings and its own procedures to make sure they’re doing everything they can to protect players.
Another memorial service will be held Oct. 1 at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg.