Upstate parents react to SC high school football player's death - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate parents react to SC high school football player's death

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

A Hartsville high school football player collapsed on the football field Friday night in the middle of a game and died.

The Darlington County coroner said Ronald Rouse died as a result of an irregular heartbeat because he was born with an enlarged heart. The tragedy has broken hearts across South Carolina, including here in the Upstate.

Saturday is typically game day for the Greenville Hurricanes, a JV football team for private and home-schooled boys. For many parents, the news of what happened downstate was hard to hear, knowing their own sons were out on the field.

There are 28 current Greenville Hurricane football players, that's down from 30 at the start of the season due to minor injuries. While their parents said they've seen their sons take every hit and tackle, now they are on edge.

"That's horrible to hear for anyone, and our thoughts and prayers are with that family," said Steve Johnson, athletic director for the Greenville Hurricanes. "I can't imagine what they're going through."

Johnson is not only the athletic director for the Hurricanes, his own son dons the No. 80 jersey on the field for the team. As his son is one of the biggest players on the team, Johnson said the story of 18-year-old Rouse, a 6'3" and 320 pound lineman really hits close to home for his family.

Johnson said the Greenville Hurricanes have done all they can to protect their kids.

"Football is a tough sport, but I try to protect those young men, get them the best helmets money can buy, best shoulder pads and coaching techniques," said Johnson.

But the Hartsville teen's death is maybe even more concerning for parents, because Rouse's death was of natural causes, not necessarily something that could have been prevented on the field.

"I do wish there was an easier way to screen kids for heart conditions," said football parent Becky Kelly. "Some way to prevent that type of sudden death because it's tragic and you hear about it, it seems like too often."

According to the Darlington County coroner, Rouse was treated by a team of doctors and athletic trainers after he collapsed on the field. They reportedly used a defibrillator to try shocking his heart but he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

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