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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014: Shoreham-Wading River junior dies after hit in game

   Leading off today: A Shoreham-Wading River football player died Wednesday after he collided with an opponent and collapsed during a game, downstate news media reported.

   Authorities said Tom Cutinella, a junior guard and linebacker, died at Huntington Hospital after suffering a head injury during the third quarter of a Section 11 game vs. John Glenn High in Elwood. A school district spokesperson said Cutinella had been in intensive care after undergoing surgery.

   Dozens of friends, teammates and relatives kept vigil outside the hospital awaiting word on the youth's condition. When a hospital official announced Cutinella had died, students cried out and two people collapsed to the ground weeping, Newsday reported.

   "He was a great kid," S-WR coach Matt Millheiser told the paper before leaving the hospital late Wednesday.

   Millheiser characterized the play on which Cutinella, 16, was injured as "a big hit." He was initially treated on the field as the teams went to opposite end zones to wait. The crowd applauded as he was placed on a stretcher, with some fans shouting his first name, the Riverhead News-Review reported.

   Cutinella, who also played lacrosse, began playing football for S-WR as a freshman and was in his first varsity season.

   The game was being played midweek as many schools around the state made their traditional adjustment to schedule around Yom Kippur.

   S-WR school board member Jack Costas told Newsday safety will likely be discussed Tuesday then the board next meets.

   "We're a small community and we're all devastated," he said. "It's always tragic when someone so young and so full of life has their life ended. It's going to be a very, very difficult road ahead from this."

   Said Superintendent Steven Cohen: "He had a great sense of humor and was just a great individual overall. He was well-liked among students and staff and he will truly be missed."

   Cutinella is the second high school football player in the country this week and second in New York this season to die during football-related activities.

   On Monday, Rolesville (N.C.) junior Isaiah Langston, 16, died. He had collapsed during warm-ups before a Sept. 26 game and the cause of his death remains undetermined.

   On Sept. 1, Curtis High junior lineman Miles Kirkland-Thomas collapsed after wind sprints during a Labor Day practice and later died at a Staten Island hospital. The cause of his death has not been released.

       There have been a number of deaths at high school practices and contests across the state in recent years.

   In September 2013, Brocton junior Damon Janes, 16, died three days after collapsing during a Section 6 football game. His death was the sixth ever in Western New York high school football and the first there since Mike Dwyer of Olean Archbishop Walsh in 1977.

   Also in 1977, Fulton senior Rick Luciano complained of chest pains during the fourth quarter of a game in North Syracuse. After being checked by a paramedic at the scene, he was released to his family and transported to an area hospital, where he was stricken and died.

   Ronan Guyer, a 14-year-old Southold freshman, died in November 2012 five days after being placed in a medically induced coma. While scouting the course to be used the following day at the NYSPHSAA cross country championships at Elma Meadows, Guyer slipped on a muddy area and fell on his chest, triggering cardiac arrest.

   In October 2011, Phoenix varsity football player Ridge Barden died following a head injury suffered in a game. He complained of a severe headache following a play and collapsed while trying to stand up. Autopsy results showed he died of bleeding in the brain, due to blunt force trauma.


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   Other recent deaths of football players in New York include:

   In 1983, Yonkers football player Fernando Guedes, 17, died after collapsing during the season-opening game vs. Scarsdale. The death prompted the district to briefly suspend all sports while it investigated how an athlete with a serious heart ailment was allowed to participate.

   Newburgh Free Academy tri-captain James Arline, a 17-year-old senior linebacker, fell ill shortly after an October 1992 road game and died of a stroke. It was uncertain whether it was related to a blow suffered in the game.

   Torrance Wright Jr., a 17-year-old lineman for Rochester's Franklin High, collapsed and died during a four-team scrimmage in Livonia the week before the start of the 1999 regular season.

   Spackenkill junior football player Mark Milano died Oct. 7, 2006, from complications involving pain medication at his home a day after dislocating an ankle during a game at Millbrook.

   In July 2012, Nicholas Dellaventura, 15, died after being overcome by heat during an offseason workout at St. Joseph-by-the-Sea.

   According to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research prepared by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, there were 25 fatal injuries to U.S. high school football players between 2003 and 2013. After two directly related deaths each year from 2009 to 2011 and then none in 2012, there were eight such fatalities in 2013.

   New York athletes in other sports have not been immune.

   In April 2007, Pittsford freshman lacrosse player Jeff Milano-Johnson, 14, died after he was struck in the back of his head just below the helmet by a ball during warmups before a game at Spencerport.

   Another freshman lacrosse player died in March 2000. Louis Acompora, a Northport goalie, was struck in the chest by a ball during a freshman game. Acompora, 14, suffered commotio cordis, a rare form of cardiac arrest considered reversible with the assistance of an automated external defibrillator, which typically was not available at sports contests at that time.

   His parents became active in raising awareness through the Louis Acompora Foundation, and then-Gov. George Pataki signed into law a bill in June 2002 requiring that a portable defibrillator be placed in each high school. "Louis' Law" was the nation's first to require AEDs, which are now commonplace at schools, public buildings and sporting events in many states.

   Binghamton High lacrosse player John Mack died Nov. 30, 2006, two days after suffering cardiac arrest when checked across the chest during a pickup lacrosse game in the offseason.

   New York City-area runners Stephanie Companioni (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Tanya Lovelace (St. Francis Prep), collapsed and died in February and April 1991, respectively, after competing. Both were reported to be instances of sudden heart failure.

   In April 2007, runner Arielle Newman, 17, of Staten Island's Notre Dame Academy died when her system absorbed lethal levels of methyl salicylate, an ingredient found in sore muscle treatments like BenGay, Icy Hot and Tiger Balm. Newman was using a cream, adhesive pads containing the anti-inflammatory and another product with the chemical, the medical examiner determined.

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