Issaiah Abrego normally started for his youth football team, the Las Vegas Green Machine, but this wasn’t a competitive game. He spent much of the first half on the sideline.
At halftime, the eighth-grader talked to his parents, a fence separating them. Then he turned to walk toward the end zone. There would be a speech and a snack. But the 14-year-old never made it, collapsing near the end zone and later dying at a Las Vegas area hospital.
The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Abrego was an honor roll student who played both trumpet and baritone in his middle school band. The Oakland Raiders fan loved tackle football, which he began playing in fifth grade, and served as a lineman for the Green Machine. He wanted to enter his high school’s sports medicine program this fall.
“Issaiah was a longtime member of our Green Machine football family, which has been one of the strongest programs in our history, not just in competition, but also in character, work ethic, and passion for the game,” NYS Nevada Tackle Football posted to Facebook, along with a slideshow of pictures of Abrego. “Issaiah Abrego exemplified all of these traits and more and was loved by not only his teammates and coaches, but by many of the teams throughout our league, as evidenced by the outpouring of support from across the football community.”
In 2015, 11 high school football players died, according to Sports Illustrated, with causes ranging from lacerated spleens, head injuries, pulmonary edema and more.
Abrego’s father, however, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was informed by doctors that his son’s death may have been heart related.
Abrego reportedly last had a regular checkup two months ago. He even took a free EKG test six months ago. An EKG, also known as an ECG or an electrocardiogram, detects heart abnormalities. It isn’t a perfect test, just one of the best offered for free to high school athletes in some cities. Abnormalities can still go undetected.
“What we know is that Issaiah’s heart rhythm was abnormal from the moment he was hooked up to a monitor in the ambulance,” states a GoFundMe page set up in Abrego’s memory, upon which donations have reached just over $10,000 of the $15,000 goal only a day after its creation. “There were a few times that his pulse was felt and he held an irregular rhythm that was sustainable for as much as five minutes but it never lasted.”
Abrego is likely the country’s first reported case of a high school or middle school football player collapsing and dying this year.
“He was having a hard time breathing,” his father, German Abrego, told the Review-Journal. “His eyes were rolled back. His tongue was in the back of his throat. …
“It’s hard. He was our first kid. We were so young when we had him. We took him to different places, traveled. He was a good kid and was loved by everybody. Just wanted to help anybody. Always a caring kid.”