Taylor Haugens was a 15-year-old wide receiver going across the middle of the field in 2008 when he was sandwiched between two defenders. The hits, one from the front and one from behind, ruptured his liver. Despite being immediately rushed to the hospital where emergency surgery was conducted, Haugens died a few hours after the hits. According to Haugens’ parents, the surgeons told them their son’s internal organs looked like he had been in a car crash.
Professional football player Jordan Leggett played wide receiver for a nearby high school in the Florida Panhandle at the time and remembers as news spread about the injury and subsequent death of Haugens. While the future pro tight end did not know the boy, he teamed up with Haugens’ parents to start Touchdowns for Taylor in conjunction with the Taylor Haugens Foundation. The goal is to raise awareness among parents, players, and coaches on how to better prevent abdominal injuries.
New rules change the way players hit
Protecting the torso is now becoming a higher priority. With so much emphasis on protecting the head and knees with new rules, players at all levels now often are left to target the torso, which is where a number of internal organs are located. According to Leggett, Haugens’ parents hear from other parents almost daily who talk of children with injuries to the abdomen.
The Haugens family supports a product called EvoShield shirt, which provides padded protection to the mid-section. Players at all levels of the sport currently use this product. They also started the Youth Equipment for Sports Safety program, which educates athletes and provides them with equipment to protect their torso.
When Leagues and Teams Don’t Advocate for Safety, Parents Have to
Leggett started an initiative for donors to give money for each touchdown scored by the Jets. But, still, not enough has been done to protect young players. Parents can advocate for their children by:
- Making sure their child has proper safety equipment
- Asking questions of doctors and coaches
- Being engaged
No parent can protect their child from all injuries, even when they try. When children are injured in these preventable ways, legal action may be the only way to make a change within athletic organizations and the community.