Special Report: Concussions, Part Two - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Special Report: Concussions, Part Two

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The September 2008 death of JH Rose football player Jaquan Waller was a wake up call to many of us.

Waller died from second impact syndrome. Basically, Waller had two different concussions in a very short time.

"It educated a lot of us, said Pitt County Athletics Director Ron Butler. "We deal with a lot of people who just don't think it can ever happen to them. And as I tell our coaches, it not only can happen to us, but it has happened to us."

 Football, by its very nature, is a violent sport. Rules have been changed and altered to try and make the game safer. Still, it is football.

"It's a big concern," said Tim Manning, Community Coordinator of Pop Warner football in Greenville. "Obviously NFL and college programs are getting a lot of publicity, some of it not so good about concussions and concussion awareness. So we felt some of it needed to be addressed even at out level."

So Manning and his coaches have partnered up with USA football to teach a safer game.

"We've kind of prided ourselves on tackling technique for quite some time," Manning continued. "It's really not teaching it a different way. It's the terminology, cues and the verbal cues are a lot different in heads-up tackling. And once we get the kids acclimated to the terminology they've done very well with it."

Still concussions can and will happen. Just last month South Central quarterback Dylan Cunningham was injured against JH Rose. Dylan's father, Tim was visibly upset because this was Dylan's second concussion of the season.

"This one was worse than the first one," said Dylan's father Tim Cunningham. "He's actually had two,  one in baseball and then one at Hunt so this is actually the 3rd concussion. This one was more serious then all of them he couldn't come out of the bedroom because of the sun light outside so he stayed in basically for 4 days at the house. That happened on Friday night and Sunday he was rushed back to the hospital worrying about symptoms that he was having, headaches and vomiting. We took him back to the hospital. This is a much more serious concussion than he ever had before and it still scares us."

Tim Cunningham wonders if he had to do it over again if he would allow Dylan to play football.

"That's a very hard question," he answered. "The athletic ability of my son, that he has had all his life he's loved the sport, I don't think I'd hold him back from it. But now that he's getting to that age and I'm finding out more about concussions probably not. I probably wouldn't let him play."

Mike Hanley is the Assistant Athletic Director for Medical Services at East Carolina Since 1989 Hanley has been a clinical instructor in the Athletic Training Program. His primary responsibility has been football and he's seen how concussions are handled changed drastically.

"As we've gone along and learned more about them," explained Hanley. "Sometimes the symptoms will go away or we find out that players lie about the symptoms. But there are certain things they can't lie about, certain things they can't hide. That's where the balance comes into play. They can't fake that. "

Still, today's parents face quite a dilemma. Do they risk allowing their children the chance to play football and risk permanent injury.

"I think the league has done a really good job of teaching our children how to hit and to hit correctly," said Tammy Lee, who's son plays for the 7-8 Greenville Titans.
"I know the coaches we have here are instilling that in them. Do I worry? I'm a mother so of course I worry. But I really feel they've gone along way with that and have done a good job."

Laura Davenport has two children on that same Titans team.

"I don't, or I haven't worried," she said. "These helmets are so heavy and the padding is so think inside. They fit real tight. It just hasn't been a concern."

"There are going to be inherent risks from just playing the game," added Dexter McDuffie, another Titans parent. "But I think the risk of them getting hurt is just as likely in any other sport."

Manning has mixed feelings.

"I really feel like from the top down that there's really been a conservative effort by each organization to change football at its fundamental level and+- that's right here, right here, right now.

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