Evergreen football player Kenney Bui died three days after a traumatic brain injury suffered during a game in Burien. The loss of the 17-year-old is “catastrophic,” his father says.
The father of a Seattle-area high-school football player who died Monday, three days after suffering a severe head injury in a weekend game, said his son loved the sport.
Kenney Bui, 17, played for the Evergreen Wolverines as a senior at the Technology, Engineering and Communications High School run by Highline Public Schools.
He had dreams of attending and playing football at schools such as University of Washington or Washington State University, said Kenney’s father, Ngon Bui, 60, of southwest Seattle.
“He didn’t like any other sports,” his father said in an interview Tuesday. “He just liked football.”
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But Kenney Bui, a wide receiver and defensive back, was hurt during a hard tackle in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game between the Evergreen and Highline teams at Highline Memorial Stadium. He was rushed off the field in an ambulance. His 16-year-old brother, who helped with the team, was at the game.
Kenney Bui had emergency surgery that night, then additional surgeries to attempt to repair the injury, his father said. The efforts were unsuccessful; the family agreed to withdraw life support Monday morning. Kenney died shortly after.
“This is so catastrophic,” Ngon Bui said.
The family is planning a memorial service and funeral.
Kenney Bui’s injury occurred Friday, the same night that another Washington state football player, David Young, 17, suffered a severe neck fracture in a game near Chehalis. Another player, Ramon Angel Oros, 17, of Pateros, Okanogan County, suffered a head injury in a game late last month. Over the past weekend, all three boys were hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center, the state’s Level I trauma center, spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.
Nationwide, Bui’s death was the fourth in a month among high-school football players, according to media reports.
Football players are vulnerable to a wide spectrum of injuries, from concussions, which shake the brain inside the skull, to more serious injuries, including severe bleeding, two of the University of Washington’s top sports- injury experts, Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen and Dr. Stanley Herring, said Tuesday. The pair, who are co-medical directors of the UW Medicine Sports Concussion Program at Harborview Medical Center, held a news conference to provide context to the recent football injuries.
Such injuries and deaths are devastating, but rare, they said. In the past several years, there has been a push for increased education, awareness and advocacy about sports injuries in Washington state and across the nation.
“The tragic irony is that sports are probably safer,” Herring said.
Since 2005, 30 deaths directly attributed to high-school football have been reported nationwide. Last year, there were five deaths, according to figures from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research in North Carolina. That’s a rate of about 0.45 deaths per 100,000 participants in a sport where 1.1 million kids play football in grades 9 to 12, the study found.
Such deaths rightly draw public concern — and raise questions about safety, Ellenbogen and Herring said. But children can be seriously hurt not just in football, but during other activities — riding bikes, running, even walking.
“Life is a concussive sport,” said Ellenbogen, emphasizing that the problems caused by obesity and inactivity are far more widespread than rare injuries from sports.
“The last thing we want is to scare people off the playing field,” he said.