The death of a child in any circumstance is a horrible tragedy to be avoided at all costs. The world, unfortunately, is a random and cruel place where horrible tragedies occur with terrible regularity. Sometimes, these tragedies are unavoidable - cancer strikes or a freak genetic condition rears its ugly head. Much more often in this country, though, they are at the hand of another - car accidents, suicide, murder.
This is, or rather was, 13-year-old middle school football player Anthony Troupe, Jr. Troupe died last week on a surburban St. Louis football field during practice. Again - unavoidable tragedies happen all the times, even to youth athletes. But here’s the kicker with Anthony: he weighed 383 pounds. In 8th grade. Could his death have been avoided?
It’s a complicated question. In the wake of Anthony’s death, some doctors are calling for increased medical testing of youth athletes to screen for rare heart conditions. In a perfect world, no medical condition would escape notice, but who will foot the bill for millions of youth athletes to get these expensive tests, especially when many parents already struggle to afford ever-increasing activity fees? In our current environment of spiraling healthcare costs, where millions of Americans can’t afford basic coverage, it’s not easy to just shell out for expensive EKGs - and that’s true regardless of your political feelings on the current system.
According to a doctor quoted in today’s NEW YORK TIMES, “13-year-old boys don’t die of morbid obesity.” So it’s possible his weight didn’t play a factor. But that doesn’t answer the question of why a 13-year-old child was allowed to weigh 383 pounds. Even if his morbid obesity didn’t kill him at age 13, there’s a good chance it would have at some point. The stress that extra weight puts on his body is cruel and unusual punishment for a parent to inflict - even unintentionally - on their progeny. Parents, it’s OK to say no to your kids once in a while.
The idea that a 383-lb. football player, whose father died in 2007 of heart failure, wouldn’t have been under a doctor or trainer’s care, is horrible, but there are no easy answers to this - only the reality that a child who should still be alive, isn’t. And unfortunately, there’s more than enough blame to go around.