An Accidental Death, a Trial and Another 'Teachable' Moment

11/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011


In Kentucky, Max Gilpin, a 15 year old high school football player, lost his life running sprints on a hot day.  David Stinson, Max’s coach, just got his life back after a jury found him not guilty in causing the young man’s death.

Were the sprints known as ‘gasers’ punitive?...No doubt.  Were they probably excessive on a 94 degree day?...Most likely.  Is this type of scenario taking place on practice fields all across America?  Do I really need to answer that?

I pray that this unnecessary loss of a young life, a family’s agony over losing a child and a coach’s pain that will surely endure for a lifetime will provide a spark for a change in the culture of high school athletics; hopefully creating a fundamental shift in the way that we view the importance in high school sports of player safety and the fragility of life.  

Sports are an excellent means to positively impact the lives of young people.  Leadership, integrity, fairness, tolerance, discipline and factors that promote a healthy lifestyle are all important lessons that can be taught on a field, court or in a pool; unfortunately, far too often the adults that are trusted with the responsibility to govern these activities and the local fans/boosters that they must answer to lose sight of the true objectives.

Everyone wants to win (me more than most) and the importance of high school football is not lost on a guy (like me) from the Great State of Texas.  But the value of football and the value of a life cannot even begin to be reasonably discussed in the same sentence.

Rules and monitors need to be in place to ensure the safety of our children.  As a doctor, I can assure you that your children are far too often being placed in situations that may endanger their health.  As a responsible and concerned adult, I know that is not why you signed that permission form allowing your son or daughter to participate.

As much as I love sports, no game or victory is worth permanently damaging a child.

Go with God, Max Gilpin. I know that it will provide your family very little comfort, but I will continue do all that I can to protect your teammates.