Costa Mesa Player Dies From Brain Injury

Matt Colby, 17, a 6-foot, 185 pound defensive end for Costa Mesa High, collapsed on the sideline during a game last Friday night after suffering a brain injury and was pronounced dead on Saturday, after he was taken off life support.

Colby was apparently injured on a first quarter kickoff four minutes into a game at Westminster High against Ocean View of Huntington Beach when he was blocked to the ground. Reports from the Los Angeles Times indicated Colby stayed in the game for two plays on defense before walking to the sideline complaining his head hurt and that his head, feet and legs were tingling. Shortly thereafter, he collapsed and lost consciousness. Paramedics were able to briefly restart his heart and breathing, but he never regained consciousness or brain function.


Coaches were told after the game, a 53-12 victory, that Colby was on a respirator and life support. By Saturday, the senior's mother and three uncles made the decision to allow his organs to be harvested after a CAT scan at UCI Trauma Center in Orange showed no sign of brain activity. An autopsy was performed Monday with results pending.


Colby was one of five players who transferred to Costa Mesa from Estancia High when Dave Perkins, the former coach at Estancia, was hired. At the Estancia game the next night on Saturday, cheerleaders decorated a banner with Colby's photo on it and the Eagle players ran through it before the start of the game. At Costa Mesa's weekly 11 a.m. Saturday football meeting, players, cheerleaders, administration and boosters met and were told of the athlete's serious condition. The team has decided to go ahead and play Friday game against Whittier Christian, but all other scheduled homecoming activities have been canceled.


Costa Mesa Involved in Player Death in 1996: Research from previously published Cal-Hi Sports newsletters shows there have been just three deaths of high school varsity football players in California since 1991 as a result of on-the-field injury during a game. Ironically, Costa Mesa High, which lost Matt Colby last weekend, was the opposing team in 1996 when Coronado quarterback Adrian Taufaasau was knocked unconscious in a game against the Mustangs at Newport Harbor. The 17-year-old died two days later.


The most recent player death from on-the-field injury in California took place in

October of 1999 when Joseph Barajas, a junior varsity player at Pioneer High of San Jose, collapsed during a game and later died from what was reported to have been a head injury. The most recent player death on the varsity level occurred in September of 1998 when Ferlito Alejandro, 17, a senior at Edison High of Stockton, died one day after collapsing from a head injury the night before.


Two weeks before Taufaasau died in 1996, Eric Hoggatt, 18, of Reseda High was found dead on a Saturday morning by his mother after he suffered what was later determined to have been a head injury in a game the night before.


There also have been at least two other recent player deaths as a result of head injuries during practice. Last year, Christian Castaneda, a sophomore at Garfield High of Los Angeles, collapsed during an August practice. He never regained consciousness and the L.A. County coroner's office later ruled the cause of death to have been head trauma. In 1998, two weeks before Alejandro's death, Chino's Scott Maughan, 16, died after suffering a head injury during practice. Reports at the time said Maughan and another player collided helmet to helmet while participating in a drill.

There were no other football related deaths in California reported last year, but in 1999 Scott Lang, a promising offensive lineman at Fountain Valley, died from an apparent heart attack during practice.

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