Blog: What is too much when it comes to training high school athletes?

A sign points to Sachem East High School in Farmingville, N.Y. where police say log fell on a teenage football player's head, killing him, Thursday Aug. 10, 2017. Joshua Mileto, 16, was participating in a pre-season drill with a group of high school football players, carrying a large log overhead for a workout, when the wood fell on his head. The 11th-grader was taken from the school to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

It's perhaps the most tragic example of offseason training gone bad.

Joshua Mileto, just 16 years old, died Thursday while performing a conditioning drill for his high school football team at Sachem East High School. The Long Island school used a training technique originally developed for NAVY SEALs, in which a log is carried across a field, in order to promote team chemistry.

That log fatally struck Mileto in the head.

Douglas Casa, executive director of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, had the same initial reaction I did. Casa, whose employer works to improve the safety of athletes, questioned the wisdom of kids Mileto's age performing a task developed for grown NAVY SEALs.

"It's potentially a very different clientele," Casa remarked.

To be honest, this is hard for me to digest - I have a ton of different emotions as I think about this horrible situation. I know of schools that use similar techniques to get their athletes in-shape for the upcoming season. It extends beyond the sport of football, too. I understand schools & coaches looking for that extra inch, trying everything they can to give their kids an edge over the competition.

But now the question will - and should - be asked: when is enough, enough? Does a high school junior losing his life mean it's all gone too far - or was this just a horrific accident?

The log that killed Mileto was around 12 feet long and the diameter of a utility pole.

"It's very big," Carlin Schledorn said. Schledorn went through the same program, having played football and graduated from Sachem East. "It's a challenge for people who weight lift. Five or six people do it at once. I feel horrific for the team and the coaches because I know them, and they are all great men."

We've heard of high schoolers losing their lives during conditioning due to heat-related issues. We've heard of high schoolers losing their lives after a collision during a football game. Tragedies happen all of the time - and, ultimately, there really isn't anything we can do to prevent 99.9% of them.

This one feels different, though.

Maybe it's not, but I can't shake the feeling that it is.

Ultimately, my thoughts and prayers are with Mileto's friends and family during what has to be the toughest time of their lives.

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