North Texas

North Texas Teen's Death Could Provide Answers About Head Injury

Aaron Singleton, 15, of Joshua, died after a head injury during his junior varsity football game

Researchers hope to reveal how a 15-year-old athlete could be the key to solving a mysterious brain injury.

Doctors say "second impact syndrome" is killing young men across the country.

Last week, 15-year-old Aaron Singleton, of Joshua, died after a head injury during his junior varsity football game.

His family chose to donate his brain to the first scientific investigation of its kind.

Researchers call it "the first ever scientific research into neuro-catastrophic injury in high school football players and the possibility that confirms second impact syndrome."

Second impact syndrome is when a player suffers a second concussion before the first one has properly healed.

It causes severe brain swelling and leads to death in 50 percent of suspected cases.

Not much is known about the syndrome, but now for the first time, scientists at the National Institutes of Health will be able to study the brain of a potential victim, after Aaron's mother, Cassondra Singleton, made the decision to donate her son's organs.

"I knew it would benefit so many people in the future and hopefully help understand," said Cassondra Singleton.

The NIH partnered with the athletic safety group Practice Like Pros for the study of high school athletes who may have suffered from second impact syndrome.

"One of the questions to answer was if Aaron was a victim of second impact syndrome, and he and several other research subjects will get started on an answer towards that," said Terry O'Neil, founder of Practice Like Pros.

"It's hard to believe that with all the head injuries in high school football, there's never been a high school player's brain studied, as Aaron's will be," said O'Neil.

Second impact syndrome is said to be rare, but O'Neil says it's led to 19 deaths in between 2013 and 2015.

Cassondra Singleton said she says she takes comfort in knowing Aaron's death will serve a greater purpose.

"Just being able to help people, not just save lives now, but saving lives from future concussions and what doctors and the trainers can look for and do, and somehow manage to save someone else in the future, it's all worth it," she said.

A doctor from the NIH will visit Joshua and Fort Worth next week to interview Aaron's doctors, collect his medical history and watch video of the incident that led to his death.

They expect to have preliminary results in about a year, while the study itself is expected to last six years, depending on funding, which O'Neil and a partner, Dr. Robert Cantu, a leading expert on brain trauma, are providing for now.

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