Lack of salt killed Mississippi football player

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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- People are still reacting to the death of Jackson Prep’s Walker Wilbanks after he got sick during a game with Oxford last Friday.

"Tragic, seeing a young man go down like that. There are no words to ever explain what happened,” said Nick Kennedy, who has a son who plays football.

Kennedy, who also works as a referee, said most on the field have training to identify problems.

"We’ve been trained to look at the kids and if we see a hard impact, make sure they kids come up and are steady," he said.

Football programs come well-equipped.

Mississippi football games typically include an ambulance on site with a paramedic and EMT.

But coaches and a team doctor sent Wilbanks to a nearby hospital in a private car.

Wilbanks fell sick during the game and died later at a Jackson hospital of what doctors call “salt depletion."

”Salt helps to maintain blood pressure. You need a certain amount of salt to maintain fluid balance,” Dr. Miguel Rodriguez of Baptist Hospital said.

He said Wilbanks could have had an undiscovered genetic salt problem, or may have diluted the salt he did have with too much plain water.

”You really need to hydrate yourself with a balance electrolyte solution. That’s why Gatorade is so popular," said Rodriguez.

”I have an 18-year-old son that plays football here in Southaven, and I feel very confident if something goes on he’ll be taken care of,” said Kennedy.

Meantime, doctors call what happened to Wilbanks a freak occurrence.


  • Chris McCoy

    Same thing happened to my wife 2 months ago, she had a massive stroke like seizure, and was hospitalized for a week, she didn’t know who she was, where she was, and was a shell of a person. She has since recovered, but the doctors believe this is what happened, low sodium, too much sun, and too much water.

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