High School Sports

Union Mine students reflect after two football players hospitalized

Nick Brown, a junior varsity football player at Union Mine High School, was one of two players who collapsed after a Friday night game. He remained hospitalized Monday after undergoing emergency brain surgery Friday night.
Nick Brown, a junior varsity football player at Union Mine High School, was one of two players who collapsed after a Friday night game. He remained hospitalized Monday after undergoing emergency brain surgery Friday night. Brown family

The mood at Union Mine High School in El Dorado County was subdued Monday, as students reflected on two football stars who were hospitalized for severe head injuries after a seemingly routine Friday night game.

Austin Coyle, 17, a senior who knew the injured students, Nick Brown and Justin Schwartz, described the pair as “down to earth.” Students at Union Mine, along with sister high schools Ponderosa and El Dorado, wore Union Mine’s maroon, white and navy colors Monday in solidarity.

Brown and Schwartz had just finished leading their junior varsity football team to a win Friday over Foothill High School when people noticed something wrong with the boys, according to El Dorado Union High School District Superintendent Stephen Wehr.

Brown then passed out and was taken by medical helicopter to Sutter Roseville Medical Center following the game at Union Mine High School. Schwartz was also rushed to emergency care at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center.

After undergoing brain surgery Friday night, Brown remained hospitalized in critical condition, according to a Facebook post from his family Monday afternoon. Schwartz was home recovering from a concussion, his family said.

Brown suffered a “high impact blow to the head that caused a subdural brain bleed,” according to a written statement from his family. “Nick is not out of the woods, and continues to fight to pull through. He does respond to some stimuli, but it is undetermined what that means for the outcome,” the statement said.

During a Monday morning press conference in Placerville, officials with the El Dorado Union High School District and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office announced they are actively investigating what happened, though they emphasized they had not reached any conclusions.

Sheriff’s Lt. Tom Murdoch appeared with Wehr at the news conference. Murdoch, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said law enforcement investigators became involved after some students said the players may have taken Adderall, a prescription stimulant often used to treat attention deficit problems. Murdoch said his office is still examining that issue.

But the inquiry led to the arrest Monday morning of a 17-year-old male Union Mine student who allegedly furnished classmates with the drug. The student was taken to El Dorado County Juvenile Hall. His name was not released because he is a minor. Murdoch said his office has not established a connection between the suspect and the football players.

Adderall is a combination of two stimulant drugs, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which is primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults. Its use has surged in recent years, with total prescriptions reaching 18 million in 2010, according to published reports citing research by IMS Health, which tracks prescription data.

Adderall has gained a reputation as a “party drug” due to to its ability to create a euphoric high when pills are crushed, snorted or injected, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Illegal use of Adderall is not a big problem at Union Mine, said junior Daniel Warden, who played football with Brown and Schwartz last year.

“Most … don’t do stuff like that,” he said. “A few kids do it, and then they give a bad rap to the school. A lot of kids don’t like it.”

Wehr said district officials are reviewing game footage and looking into any “off-field factors” to determine what happened. He said the football teams will continue to play games.

“It is very important that we take care of our kids,” Wehr said, adding that the district is providing counselors for students and staff members. “This shakes the adults within our system, too.”

Bee staff writers Bill Lindelof and Peter Hecht contributed to this report. Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang

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