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OpinionEditorial

Long Island high school football tragedy raises safety questions

Suffolk County police on the athletic field look

Suffolk County police on the athletic field look at a training log at Sachem High School East in Farmingville on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The death of a young person is always wrenching. We extend our thoughts, prayers and sympathies to the family of Joshua Mileto, 16, a junior at Sachem High School East, who died Thursday morning while participating in a football team offseason strength and conditioning camp.

His death appears to be the result of a horrible accident, but might have lessons in preventing future tragedies. Mileto, of Farmingville, was killed during a drill when a heavy log he and some teammates were carrying over their heads fell and struck him. There is much that is not known. A thorough investigation must answer those questions.

But Mileto’s death is a sign that it’s time to reflect, and possibly recalibrate. The high school athletic establishment should pause and ask itself: Are we pushing our kids beyond the line of safety?

The log drill used by Sachem East is similar to one employed by Navy SEALS to build cohesion, teamwork and leadership. But is it appropriate for high school kids? Were the coaches properly trained in how to perform the drill? Other teams have novel ways of relieving or complementing weight-room drudgery, like flipping monster truck tires. What are best practices?

Football is not alone in pushing the boundaries of what is wise and legal — like the offseason camps that are not mandatory but in reality are required, or 7-on-7 scrimmages conducted in June and July contrary to state rules. Usually, nothing bad happens. And we want to believe that no one did anything wrong at Sachem East, either.

But it’s time to have the conversation and check our priorities. Our children’s lives depend on it. 

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