March 18, 2004

Boiardi '04 Dies After Blow to Chest in Game

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Tragedy hit Schoellkopf Field yesterday afternoon when men’s lacrosse defenseman George Boiardi ’04 died during a game against Binghamton after he was struck in the chest by a ball shot by the Bearcats’ Nate Kerstein.

At the time of the incident, the Red led, 9-6, with 2:33 remaining in the fourth quarter. The game was not completed.

Kerstein, apparently taking a shot on goal, wound up and hit Boiardi right above his heart with the shot. Boiardi recoiled from the impact with both of his arms above his head before falling to the turf. Training staffs from both teams responded immediately with first aid. Officers from the Cornell University Police Department arrived three minutes later.

While workers from the athletic training staff attended to Boiardi on the field, Schoellkopf Field fell silent, as Cornell players held hands, and their Binghamton opponents were on their knees.

Paramedics arrived minutes later and administered CPR for over 10 minutes. Boiardi was later taken by a Bangs ambulance to Cayuga Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6:44 p.m.

A spokesperson from Cayuga Medical Center declined to comment.

“I can confirm that [Boiardi] died,” said Simeon Moss, deputy director of the Cornell News Service. Boiardi was known for his speed and defensive leadership abilities on the field and guidance off it. Named one of four team captains this year, Boiardi made the successful transition from a longstick midfielder to a shortstick defenseman last season. He was a history major in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Boiardi was an all-league selection as a member of Landon School’s lacrosse team during his senior year of high school in Bethesda, Md. He also played high school varsity football and hockey for four years each.

“Cornell’s athletics community is absolutely devastated by this tragic loss. George was a terrific person, a great team leader, an excellent student and, in fact, he was one of the finest students at the University. This loss cannot be measured. Our hearts and prayers go out to George’s family, his friends and his teammates,” said J. Andrew Noel, director of athletics and physical education. According to Moss, Boiardi’s parents were contacted after the incident and were en route to Ithaca as of last night. The Division of Student and Academic Services is also coordinating support efforts surrounding the senior’s death.

“A lot of University staff, including crisis counselors, [spoke] with players and other athletes who were around at the time [last night],” Moss said.

Though the cause of death has not been determined, blunt, non-penetrating chest blows, such as the impact Boiardi suffered, can result in sudden cardiac death. As of 2001, there were 128 confirmed cases of such trauma, according to a study published in the March 6, 2002, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In recent University history, Boiardi’s death is the first to have happened during competition. The last student-athlete who died was wrestler Scot Elwood ’06, who inadvertently fell to his death in the Fall Creek Gorge on Sept. 18, 2003.

Another grappler, Graham B. Morin ’04, died on Nov. 25, 2000, during practice due to hypotrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare heart condition. Similarly, an enlarged heart condition killed swimmer Scott J. Paavola ’05 in his room on Oct. 15, 2002.

“It’s incredibly sad, heart-breaking news,” Moss said of Boiardi’s death.

Boiardi is survived by his parents Mario and Deborah, an older brother and a younger sister.

Archived article by Sun Staff