Stoppage of school sports contributed to Michigan teen’s death, parents say

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A Michigan teen who died in a car crash was struggling with depression after COVID-19 stopped high school hockey, according to his heartbroken parents who said it could have led to their son’s death.

Brennan Dethloff, an 18-year-old senior defenseman at Mona Shores High School, died on Jan. 18 from injuries sustained in the accident two days earlier, the team announced last month.

But two coronavirus-linked delays in his team’s hockey season, coupled with Brennan’s ongoing mental health issues, was becoming too much for the teen prior to his tragic death, his parents said.

“You could see it in his face and his body language and his demeanor that it just took it out of him,” Brian Dethloff told MLive.com. “We both noticed it and did what we could … and ultimately that night, something set him off. You know, unfortunately, he chose to do what he did.”

Brian Dethloff said he wants his son’s death to “help shine a light on” the plight of high school athletes across the country whose routines were upended by the pandemic.

“What he needed was what all these kids needed – a little bit back to normalcy and to get his life back,” Brian Dethloff said.

In Michigan, state officials have barred ice hockey, basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer through Feb. 21.

However, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reportedly said last week that winter contact sports could return in just “weeks or days.”

Brennan, who had a 3.8 GPA, was known as a hardy defender on the ice who always looked after his teammates. He also loved disc golf, video games and outdoor activities like hunting and fishing – activities he did with friends and teammates whom mattered most to him, his parents said.

“You always think, ‘What could we have done different?’ or ‘What didn’t he have that would have helped?’ It wasn’t anything about that,” Brian Dethloff said. “It was about, he truly had a depression issue and we helped as much as we could.”

Rona Delthloff said she believes there are many other students who are likely battling the total upheaval of their routines brought on by the pandemic.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of – there’s so many kids struggling right now and it’s not their fault,” she told MLive.com.

Brennan’s teammates, meanwhile, have tried to keep his legacy alive with a hashtag #forBrennan22 and by asking Norton Shores residents to put hockey sticks on their front porches.

“Brennan was a bright light in the lives of all who knew him,” a memorial website reads.

“He was an avid hockey player, the kindest of souls, and truly a friend to all. The void he leaves in his absence cannot be measured in words, and he leaves a legacy of extraordinary kindness and true friendship for others to follow.”

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