Charles Youvella dies from injury

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A high school football player in Arizona died from an injury suffered during the fourth quarter of a blowout playoff loss, serving as yet another reminder of the dangers of head trauma in youth sports.

Hopi High School senior Charles Youvella died of a traumatic brain injury Monday at a hospital, the Arizona Interscholastic Association said. He was hurt Saturday in Hopi's 60-6 loss to Arizona Lutheran in a first-round playoff game. Youvella scored Hopi's touchdown.

The death attracted national attention after Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tweeted a picture of Youvella and asked people to pray for the teen's family, friends and teammates. The AIA said Youvella died with his family by his side.

A community memorial is planned for Wednesday evening at the high school auditorium.

Youvella's father, Wallace Youvella Jr., is the school's athletic director.

"We'll all have to move forward and at least support one another and support our young children," Hopi chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa said.

The death comes at a time when head injuries in football are attracting attention at all levels of the sport.

The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council two weeks ago called for a national system to track sports-related concussions and answer questions about concussions in youth and school sports, particularly football. The report revealed that the reported concussion rate for the average high school football player is nearly twice that of a college player, and far outpaces that of other high school sports.

The report said 250,000 people nationwide age 19 and younger were treated in emergency rooms for concussions and other sports- or recreation-related brain injuries in 2009. That was an increase from 150,000 in 2001.

The AIA says an account will be established to help defray costs for the Youvella family.

Hopi coach Steve Saban said Youvella was among a group of kids who had been playing for him for years; Saban said these players had vowed to put in the work needed to become a standout team in football, which isn't the most popular sport at the school. The Bruins' only other loss this season was in overtime.

"We had just a beautiful season, best record in school history," Saban said. "Down there in the state playoffs, it was just a great experience for the kids. And then the terrible tragedy. It was just like a bad dream."

Hopi High School is in the community of Keams Canyon, on the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona.