11-year-old football player suffers spinal fracture after helmet-to-helmet hit

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by DREW KAREDES

KHOU

Posted on October 2, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 2 at 5:00 PM

FRIENDSWOOD, Texas – An 11-year-old youth football player is out of the game for the rest of the year after a serious injury that happened on the field.

Anthony Benavides is recovering from a spinal fracture following helmet-to-helmet contact.

The Friendswood Bronco Blue player was knocked out cold during a game against the Senior Bay Area Texans.

There is video that shows Benavides being hit and going down.

“Just seeing that kind of hit was dramatic. It was horrifying, and as a mother, it’s the worst feeling you could ever get,” said mother Lilli Benavides.

She and other parents of Friendswood Bronco Blue Players were shocked that the referees didn’t call a penalty.

“He has a fractured vertebrae. It could’ve been a broken beck. Is that what they’re waiting for? I’m not sure,” said parent Joel Nelson. “I’ve shown that hit to 100 people. Not one of them has said it’s a clean hit.”

Frustration among parents has been brewing since the Sept. 21 game. Many have been writing e-mails to the South Texas Youth Football Association.

“The helmet-to-helmet hit is detrimental, and it could be death. Unfortunately, this is being coached,” said parent James Moore.

Parents have been questioning what some coaches are teaching and what the league is tolerating.

However, an assistant coach for Senior Bay Area Texans said he didn’t see anything wrong with the play. In fact, he said that people are trying to “change the culture that’s been going on for 100 years."

Former NFL player Seth Payne disagrees. He feels the play was an unsafe one.

“It was what would’ve been five years ago considered a great, clean hit, but the rules and the standards have changed for the better,” Payne said. “I was a guy, I was not a fan of these changes. Now I understand what it means to kids.”

Payne points out that the player in question lead with the crown of his helmet.

“There’s going to be incidental helmet-to-helmet contact, but it’s when people are leading with the crown of their helmet, hitting other players with the helmet, that you’re getting a lot the devastating injuries,” Payne said.

South Texas Youth Football Association has responded to the flurry of concerns from the community. Present John Gonsalves released a written statement.

“South Texas Youth Football Association (STYFA) met on the evening of September 25, 2013 to discuss an on-field incident between the Friendswood Broncos and Bay Area Texans. After much discussion, deliberation, and consideration of rules and by-laws, the player in question was placed under a formal prohibitory warning for the remainder of the 2013 season with additional penalties possible.

Additionally STYFA recognizes the concern of safety of the children participating in football and is implementing and reinforcing policies that are aimed to improve player safety for the current season and for future seasons—teams will be making efforts to secure a fourth referee in all junior and senior level games, immediate communication and re-emphasis of proper tackling form as taught by USA Football, re-emphasis on proper sportsmanship. In upcoming seasons all STYFA coaches will be required to be certified with USA Football/Heads up tackling, as well as added emphasis on year round coaching clinics/training, and greater expectations of sportsmanship for everyone involved. STYFA continues to maintain safety as a top priority.”

Mother Lilli Benavides is hoping that what happened to her son will help promote safety on the field.

“It’s a horrible feeling. I don’t want anybody to feel that pain I felt,” Lilli added. “Why did this happen to him when it could have been prevented?”

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