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Athletes, Coaches, and Doctors Working to Protect H.S. Football Players

By Daniel Cherry | Published 15 Sep 2011 08:14pm | comments

Tonight, when the stadium lights come on and the helmets crash, Mississippi football players are going to be at high risk for getting injured. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a better knowledge of sports injuries is making big changes when it comes to student athlete safety.

On Northwest Rankin High School's practice field, Julian Jackson, a junior cornerback, is running through tackling drills. But he almost didn't make it here.

"It felt like a horse had kicked me in the chest, and I went to the hospital. When they told me what was going on I was like, no that can't be right."

Jackson had a heart attack at football practice. But he's been thorough treatment, and now he trusts his body to tell him when to slow down.

"I can feel it before it comes on, but if I start feeling it, I've got to take my shoulder pads off, sit down, let my body catch up to itself. That's about it. It's pretty odd for a 16 year old to have a heart attack."

Jackson's experience is similar to that of D'Iberville football player Latrell Dunbar who collapsed and died during last Friday's game. Northwest Rankin Head Coach Pete Hurt says coaches get constant reminders about the dangers of the game. That's why the team has a doctor on the sideline of every game as well as trainers at every practice.

"Our trainer and myself we have a great working relationship. He doesn't call plays, and I don't decide who practices. It's totally up to him. If he says they can practice then they can. If he says they can't then they don't."

One of the biggest concerns for high school football players is the risk of concussions. Dr. Brian Tollefson practices emergency and sports medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He says the better information is helping reduce something called second impact syndrome.

"It's usually something where they get another ding to their head, and have another injury before their first one heals. They have inability to regulate blood flow to their brain, and they can actually die right on the field from that."

Tollefson says estimates show there are more than 200 thousand sports related concussions nationwide each year.

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