Brutal hits in the NFL this season reverberate locally Video

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The Enterprise of Brockton, Mass.
Brutal hits in the NFL this season reverberate locally
By Kyle Alspach, Enterprise staff writer
Football may be a macho sport, but local players and coaches admit there are parts of the game that scare them.
Namely, the possibility of suffering a spinal cord injury like the one suffered by a Buffalo Bills player last Sunday.
"You start getting worried now," said 16-year-old Shakim Bynum, a safety for the Brockton High School team. "If I go to hit, I could be paralyzed."
His coach, Peter Colombo, put it this way: "It just makes you know how vulnerable they all are."
The catastrophic injury suffered by Bills tight end Kevin Everett resonated through the high school football scene, as players were reminded of the game's risks and coaches used the case to reinforce safety procedures with their teams.
"When something like that happens, it opens everyone's eyes up to it," said Mike Fraccalossi, football coach at Carver High School.
Roughly 1.5 million middle and high school students play football in the United States.
Of those, 11 suffered cervical spinal cord injuries last year — one of them died and four were left paralyzed, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.
"Football is a contact sport," said 18-year-old Sean Gurley of Kingston, a running back at Silver Lake Regional High School, which includes Kingston, Halifax and Plympton.
"As severe as (Everett's) injury was, you have to expect that stuff like this will happen when playing football," Gurley said.
Even so, today's high school players are well-protected by the latest equipment, coaches say.
And more importantly, the kids have been learning since day one how to avoid a spinal injury, they say.
In Brockton, a poster with the words "see what you hit" is plastered on the wall of the locker room, reminding players of the golden rule: Keep your head up when making contact with another player.
Experts say that serious spinal injuries usually occur when a player has his head pointed down during a collision, compressing together the vertebrae in their neck.
Bills player Everett had his head down when he smashed helmets with another player, noted 16-year-old Patrick Joliceur, a linebacker for Brockton High School.
"They always tell us never to do that," he said.
Though rare, this type of injury nearly always leaves a person paralyzed, according to Dr. Rick Herman, chair of emergency medicine at Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.
Everett may walk again, but that's only because he received a highly advanced treatment shortly after the injury, said Herman, who discusses football injuries on a New England sports talk radio show.
"He had everything going for him that could possibly be going for him," Herman said.
One Massachusetts native was not so fortunate. Marc Buoniconti, son of former Patriots player Nick Buoniconti, has been paralyzed since 1985 when he suffered a spinal cord injury during a college football game.
The awareness raised by that incident helped to limit spinal injuries in football for many years — until recently, according to Dr. Lyle Micheli, director of sports medicine at Children's Hospital in Boston.
"It's something that may be coming back," Micheli said, explaining that more NFL players seem to be tackling with their heads down, which can lead to copying by other players.
Local athletic officials explained other efforts they are taking to prevent serious injuries to their players:
Football players at Coyle-Cassidy High School, a regional Catholic school in Taunton, were shown a video last week about "keeping your head up" while playing. Tom Pileski, football coach and athletic director for the school, said he had gotten the video a few weeks ago and decided to show it last week because of the Everett injury.
In Brockton, every piece of football equipment worn by students is sent out for testing at the end of every year. All items that don't meet safety standards are immediately replaced, according to athletic director John Boutin.
At Silver Lake Regional, athletic officials began buying new special football helmets last year. The helmets are thicker and help distribute the blows more evenly, said coach Dana Battista.
But local coaches and players acknowledge that even all the right training and equipment will never totally remove the risks of football.
"You never know when it can happen," said Bynum, of Brockton High. "Anything can happen in the game of football."
Tags brockton, enterprise, football, ghsnevid, ghsvid, injuries

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