High school football player's death raises questions

CHICAGO -- Another high school football player died this week from injuries suffered on the field. And once again the question is being asked: Was it just a tragic accident -- or could more have been done to prevent it?

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An undated photo of Andre Smith. CBS Chicago

Thursday Night, Bogan High School senior football player Andre Smith was walking, talking and playing in a big game against Chicago Vocational.

But at 6 p.m., the 17-year-old was fighting for his life in a Chicago Fire Department ambulance bound for a hospital. And that's where he died early Friday.

"It's unfortunate for him to pass, doing something he really loved doing," a friend told CBS News.

Though school officials are not saying what happened, social media initially reported Smith had been blind-sided during the contest.

The stadium announcer who witnessed the injury to Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times that it occurred on Bogan's last play of the game. Smith was running in a kick return formation and was blocked by an opponent.

He walked to the sidelines after the play but collapsed moments later and lost consciousness, according to the witness.

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"I didn't know what to do," Andre's brother, Erick Smith, said. "It just killed everything inside of me."

Andre is the seventh high school football player nationwide to die this year. And every death rekindles a debate about whether the sport played by a million American high school kids is worth the cost.

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There are also signs that the gridiron may be losing its grip on the nation's young.

While high school football fatalities are down considerably from the 1960s and 70s, the number of players at that level has dropped by more than 25,000 over the last five years.

The Chicago Public Schools said in a statement that it follows all state safety regulations governing football games, "but that unfortunately does not prevent all tragic incidents like this from occurring."

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.