Wyatt Barber

Same story, but a new verse: A young football player has died. This time, it's a 9-year-old from Meigs County, Ohio.

Wyatt Barber dropped to the ground during a football practice Monday. Witnesses say he was running sprints with teammates and then was found on the ground unconscious and not breathing. His coach performed CPR on him, and he was brought to an emergency room, but the boy was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival.

One important detail is that there was no contact involved in the practice. Given what we know today, the death of a football player automatically invokes suspicions of a head or spinal injury.

But Barber's practice was a walk-through where he wouldn't have endured any tackling or blocking, according to WOWKTV.

Unfortunately, that only increases the frustration around such a tragedy: How could he have died, and why the rush to blame football? In fairness, we don't know the cause of his death. It could be heatstroke or another condition that nobody knew about at the time.

But Barber's untimely passing does add to the long death toll football is racking up across America. So far this football season, seven high school players have died during or shortly after a football game.

Between 2004 and 2014, 92 high school players died, and not all because of head injures: Dehydration, heat exhaustion, damaged internal organs.

But Barber's death is a step even beyond the plague afflicting high school football players. As some brain injury experts have warned, the cognitive damage identified among adult athletes may have its roots at the youth level, where developing bodies are subjected to routine physical contact and injury.

On its own, Barber's death is not an indictment of football, especially when the cause remains unknown. But it should serve as a reminder that youth players are not immune to the risks of playing such a dangerous sport -- and that the dangers of football aren't limited to head-on contact.

Wyatt Barber is being memorialized as a football player, and for good reason: From what little the public knows about him, he loved football, and the game was part of his identity.

But for as much as Barber loved the sport, everyone else should use his passing to consider the risks of the game, and whether enough is being done.

The way things currently stand, high school football players will continue to die. Now and then, so will a youth player. America loves football, but it's time to love its participants, too -- and take extra steps to make sure those athletes are protected.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up to donate to Barber's family. You can donate to the cause here.

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