Burrell High football player collapses, dies at first practice

A 16-year-old football player at Burrell High School died Wednesday during the first of three days of heat acclimatization practices.

Noah Cornuet of Lower Burrell, a sophomore, ran sprints at practice, and when he was walking off the field around 6 p.m., he collapsed and was unresponsive, a supervisor at the Allegheny County medical examiner's office said.

The teen was taken to Allegheny Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. An autopsy will be performed today, the medical examiner’s supervisor said.

The practice had been held at Burrell High School's football field on Puckety Church Road in New Kensington.

A high temperature of 80 degrees was recorded at 3:58 p.m. Wednesday at Pittsburgh International Airport. By 6 p.m., it had fallen slightly to 77, meteorologist Mike Kennedy of the National Weather Service said.

The Burrell School District released the following statement on Noah’s death: “The Burrell School District community recognizes the tragic loss of a student tonight. Our crisis team has been activated and is available to assist students, staff, and the community as we cope with this loss. Support will be available at the high school over the coming days and the beginning of the school year. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. “

In 2013, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association instituted a "heat acclimatization rule" mandated for football teams. Though high school football practice in Pennsylvania officially begins Monday, under the rule, teams will practice in helmets and shoulder pads through Friday.

Thousands of school players across the state turned out Wednesday for the first day of the practices.

The basic guidelines of the rule are:

• Teams must go through three consecutive days of heat acclimatization practices before they can start full contact workouts Monday. The heat acclimatization practices couldn't start before Wednesday.

• Players are permitted to wear only helmets, shoulder pads and shorts the first two days of heat acclimatization practices without contact. They are allowed to wear full gear on the third day, with no contact.

• The practices are limited to five hours daily and no practice can be more than three hours, with a minimum two-hour recovery period in between.

• No player is allowed to play in a scrimmage or game unless he has gone through three heat acclimatization practices to start the season.

• If teams don't want to conduct the three heat acclimatization practices this week, they can do so starting Monday. They could not have full contact until the fourth day (next Thursday).

PIAA officials said last year that they instituted the rule because of an increase in deaths of high school football players from heat-related problems around the country.

According to a 2013 report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, 52 football players -- 41 in high school -- died since 1995 from heat-related causes.

“Ninety percent of recorded heat stroke deaths occurred during practice,” the report states.

Other states have similar rules.

The last WPIAL player to die was a Ringgold High School student during a game against Mt. Lebanon in 1980.

Late Wednesday night, friends and fellow students took to Twitter to express their condolences using the hashtag #RIPNoah.

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com. First Published August 6, 2014 12:00 AM

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