Frostburg State football player pressured back on field after blows to the head dies

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“Every time he presented [symptoms], they put him back in,” he says.

Ken’s balled-up fist smacks his palm with each word. The sharp voice echoes through the empty kitchen.

“We’re haunted,” Kristen says from the car she is driving back from another visit to State College, “with the terrible unreality all the time.”

Reminders of Derek stalk them. Watching “Breaking Bad” on television. His Godfather impressions. The No. 40 jersey he wore. Derek. Ken wishes he had asked why his son picked the number. These days, the number appears in the strangest places. A game show prize is $40,000. The trip will take 40 minutes. Forty people are in the room. They live near Route 40. They drive over a peak 240 above sea level.

On the best nights, sleep is elusive. They feel as if half of their life has been ripped away. They ask themselves how much worse this could get.

They wonder what Derek would do. They remembered the time in middle school when the undersized youngster stood up to a gang of toughs on his school bus. They decided Derek would speak out.

Ken runs his hands over the table’s smooth wood. Air conditioning kicks on with a low hum.

“If I had written a movie about this, people wouldn’t believe me,” Ken says. “They wouldn’t.”

Unenforced rules

Inside the NCAA’s labyrinthine bible of regulations are the 195 words of Rule 3.2.4.17. Adopted in 2010, they require each university to have a concussion management plan that includes putting the onus on athletes to report such injuries. Frostburg State had a plan in 2011 when Derek died, 6 pages of good intentions that could have been cribbed from a textbook.

While the organization’s bible mentions recruits 495 times and plunges into legislative minutiae on matters such as logo size, movies and the permissible dimensions of institutional notecards, 15 lines are given to head injuries. The NCAA once punished a football player for accepting a free sandwich, imposed $60 million in penalties on Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and recently finished a circuitous three-year investigation of the relationship between a jailed booster and the University of Miami’s athletics department.

But the NCAA, founded 1906 in response to a swarm of football injuries and deaths, doesn’t enforce its own concussion rule.

David Klossner, former NCAA director of health and safety, admitted as much in a deposition this year in an unrelated federal lawsuit challenging the NCAA’s concussion policy:

Q: Are member institutions required to submit their concussion management plans to the NCAA?

A: No.

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