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Navy Academy Football Player Dies In A Coma

Family says he had previous head injury

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Nineteen-year-old Naval Academy football player Will McKamey has died in a coma, two years after he suffered a major head injury.
U.S. Naval Academy/AP
Nineteen-year-old Naval Academy football player Will McKamey has died in a coma, two years after he suffered a major head injury.

Navy Academy football player Will McKamey lapsed into a coma and died three days after collapsing at practice last weekend. Two years ago, he had suffered a severe head injury that nearly ended his career.

As a senior at Knoxville, Tenn., school Grace Christian Academy in 2012, McKamey rushed for more than 2,000 yards. Late that season McKamey took a hit and complained that he had a tingling sensation in his legs. His father, Randy McKamey, was and still is coach of that team. In a 2012 interview with Chattanooga's Newschannel 9, McKamey said what happened next.

"He took play or two off, went back in and scored a touchdown," Randy McKamey said. "Then he came over to me, we dialed up a two-point play and ran a counter option to him, and he just walked into the end zone. But he told me before the snap he went deaf — he couldn't hear."

Soon after, the star running back collapsed and had a seizure with bleeding in the brain. McKamey was rushed to the hospital where neurosurgeons performed a battery of tests, including several MRIs and CAT scans. Within hours, tests revealed the bleeding had stopped, and the swelling subsided. Doctors decided surgery wasn't needed and McKamey was ordered not to play any contact sports for nine months.

When McKamey collapsed again last weekend during Navy spring training, doctors performed surgery to relieve the bleeding and swelling in his brain, but the 19-year-old never regained consciousness. While no one can draw a connection between the two events, his mother Kara, also in that 2012 interview, said one thing's for sure: It was hard to keep her son down.

"He thinks he's fine," Kara McKamey said. "He thinks he's, you know, Superman."

Tamara McLeod is a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association. McLeod, who also co-authored the group’s guidelines on sports related concussion injury, says that it’s difficult to understand the relationship between consecutive concussion trauma and an athlete’s future.

"At what point should an individual consider retiring from that sport, or moving to a recreational level, or moving to a completely different activity?" McLeod says. "We don't have the answers to that but they're all concerns that need to be looked at on an individual level with the patient’s healthcare provider.”

On a Facebook post this week, McKamey’s mother Kara wrote: “I want to be clear that the football program nor us would ever allow him to be in a dangerous situation.”

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