Football Drill Death Illustrates the Need for Better Risk Management

By Doyice Cotten

A morning at the Carolina Panther's Training Camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. on 8/10/2009

Mileto and dozens of other players were taking part in a summer football camp on school grounds that was run by the Sachem East coaches and funded by a boosters group, the Sachem East Touchdown Club.

The teen and four teammates were carrying a 10-foot, 400-pound log over their heads as part of a training drill. Dankner said – for the first time publicly – that the boys were also competing in a relay race at the time.

Mileto died after the log slipped from the boys’ hands and struck him on the head. (, Sept. 7, 2017 )

Mileto’s family has filed a notice of claim that they intend to file a lawsuit seeking $15 million in compensatory and wrongful death damages. They allege “negligence and carelessness” of the Sachem Central School District and the Sachem East Touchdown Club and plan to name both as defendants.

This tragic story (click the link for the entire article) illustrates some areas with which risk managers should be concerned – whether the activity is football, any other organized team sport, or almost any other organized recreational activity. Listed below are some possible sources of negligence that could result in a verdict in favor of Mileto.

  • Coaches/organizations face less risk if they use drills that are commonly used and accepted for the sport.
  • Coaches choosing to use original or newly devised drills should examine the drill for possible risks.
    • Consulting with other (and more experienced coaches) should help to identify less obvious risks of the activity.
    • Carrying a 400 pound log might be considered appropriate, but this would seem less likely when one adds the factor of a competitive race to the situation.
    • In this case, thought should have been given to what would happen if the boys lost control of the log.
    • Also, ask if the drill is appropriate for the fitness level of the participants – and in this case, the fatigue level (it is alleged that the boys were already tired from previous drills).
    • Be certain the drill is age-level appropriate. One allegation in this case is that carrying a 400 pound log is inappropriate for 15- and 16-year-old boys.
  • The allegation of failure to supervise adds to the problem; athletes performing conditioning activities should never be unsupervised.
  • The need for proper instruction as to how to perform the drill goes without saying.
  • There needs to be a risk management plan in effect regarding treatment of injuries and procedure for securing help. The staff needs to know this plan.

It is also worth noting that both the head coach and one assistant coach have been reassigned while the situation is being investigated. Also, note that the booster club has been named as a defendant. Whether sponsoring organizations are liable in situations such as this usually depends upon their role – whether they simply provide funds or they were involved in the organization and planning of the activity.


These risk management considerations can be applied to almost any sport or activity. Whether the activity is high school football, a health club, or a trampoline facility, risk management is crucial to the financial security of the entity and to the safety of participants. If the injury is avoided, no one is hurt and no one is sued.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Kyle Tsul at Flickr.