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After 2 deaths and spinal cord injury, N.J. football community grapples with tragedy and risk

Mar 27, 2023

Linden wears a "16" patch dedicated to the memory of fallen teammate Xavier McClain, who tragically died following a serious injury sustained in a football game.Tom Horak | For NJ Advance Media

Just three years ago, New Jersey high school football was being hailed across the country for implementing the most restrictive contact measures of any state, an intensive protocol intended to curb injuries in America's bone-rattling yet beloved game.

The measures allowed even less hitting at high school football practices than many youth leagues — just 15 minutes of full-contact drills per week and only six hours total all preseason, including scrimmages. The actions were part of a broader strategy that seemingly made football as safe to play in New Jersey as anywhere.

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