By all accounts, Dylan Williams was the friendliest player on the Union City (Ind.) 8-year-old All-Star baseball team. And the best.
Like most 8-year-olds, though, he was easily distracted and during a practice a week ago in the small town near Muncie, he was playing first base but wasn't aware of a ball thrown his way.
It struck him on the right side of his head and neck and he crumpled to the ground immediately.
His father, one of the team's coaches, was by his side almost as quickly, but Dylan was already limp and unresponsive.
Other coaches initiated CPR. There was no AED on site. An ambulance was called. Dylan was transported to the local hospital and at some point he was resuscitated. He eventually was airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
However, by the following day, his family took him off life support and the youngster passed away.
Nobody should die that young, especially playing a sport.
And at all levels of participation, baseball is one of the safest of sports. Nonetheless, deaths do occur in youth baseball. Depending on the study, the number is between two and six per year nationally.
Most are the result of being struck on the chest by a ball (Commotio Cordis), thereby causing the heart to stop.
In Williams' case, the coroner described the cause of death as “complications of blunt force trauma” to the head and neck. Whether or not there was a bleed inside his skull was not specified.
Nor, in any press accounts, was the nature of the ball which struck him.
Was it a regulation, hard baseball or was is it one with an RIF (reduced injury factor) rating? Typically, T-ballers use an RIF 1, the softest rating. For players age six and seven -- sometimes a little older -- an RIF 5 is typical but the rules vary by league.
The RIF 5 plays like a real baseball but causes significantly fewer injuries. And up until the very highest levels of Little League, there is no need to use any other ball. But good luck telling that to a coach or league administrator who “didn't use a ball like that when I played.”
Multiple studies authored by cardiologist Mark Link of the Tufts New England Medical Center -- if they aren't enough for coaches and administrators -- should be more than compelling for parents who wish to affect a change for the better.
The lower the RIF factor, the fewer the catastrophic injuries and the relationship according to Link is fairly linear.
Still, Link documented two deaths from Commotio Cordis induced by an RIF ball in a study he published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002.
Those results and other work done by Link illustrate the need for the immediate availability of an AED. In his laboratory studies with anesthetized juvenile pigs who had sudden cardiac arrest induced by Commotio Cordis, 96 percent survived if defibrillated within two minutes, 46 percent when the wait was four minutes, and only 25 percent at six minutes.
In the wake of this latest tragedy with no defibrillator available, Williams' family now plans to raise funds to help provide the units at youth baseball fields.
Is there one at the field where your son or daughter plays? If there isn't, will you wait for another tragedy before you take action?