Miami-Dade High Schools Working to Prevent Head Trauma in Football Players

High school football player Dylan King recovered from a concussion through a district-wide program aimed at preventing brain injuries

What to Know

  • Miami-Dade Schools work with UM to track and prevent concussions
  • Teen athletes are provided with training and effective gear
  • Reported concussions in Miami-Dade County have decreased in recent years

The pounding sound of helmets colliding echoes through high school football stadiums across the country – teen bodies colliding while crowds cheer on. These hard hits on the field come with a price for some teen players.

Dylan King, a junior at Felix Varela High School, felt the brunt of the game one night.

“During halftime is when my body started cooling down and my head started throbbing,” King explained. He later learned he suffered a concussion. It was his second concussion.

“I couldn't think. My coach was talking to me. [I] couldn't focus on what he was saying,” said King.

Dr. Jillian Hotz, director at KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the University of Miami, diagnosed the junior with the brain injury.

Dr. Hotz works closely with injured high school football players as she serves as director of the concussion program for Miami-Dade County Schools.

The school district partners with UM to log, treat and prevent concussions that occur in sports programs at every public high school in the county.

Dr. Hotz says with the increased concern over concussions, coaches and players are taking more precaution.

“These are contact sports and kids are playing well and aggressive getting those plays done that the coaches are calling out,” Dr. Hotz explained. “I think there's more education. I think everyone is more aware now of how serious this is and if this does occur to get these kids out.”

Since the 2014-2015 school year, reported concussions at Miami-Dade high schools have dropped, according to data provided by the school district. Concussions were down to 161 in the 2016/2017 school year from 209 in the 2014/2015 school year.

The school district’s concussion program also includes training and providing players with the most effective gear.

Arthur de Mello is one of the athletic trainers at Felix Varela High School. He also works with King and other teen athletes. De Mello uses exercise techniques to strengthen players’ neck muscles to help reduce concussions and other injuries.

“The whole idea with this [training] is to prevent a whiplash by getting tackled,” explained De Melo. “The misconception is that you can only get a concussion if you get hit in the head, but the truth is through whiplash or just hitting the floor really hard that's also causes a concussion.”

Since his recovery, King has been cleared to play. He returned to the field feeling assured that his school has taken the steps to ensure his future is bright beyond football.

“It makes me feel warm inside knowing that they care about my health [and] not just me as an athlete,” said King.

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