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NEWS STORIES

Respect the Injury: Local School Tackles Concussions Head-OnSubmitted: 11/20/2012
Story By Matt Doyle

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RHINELANDER - You can just ask Eagles and Bears fans how much concussions affect the sport of football.

Three high-profile NFL quarterbacks suffered concussions more than a week ago.

New rules meant they had to miss this week's games.

It seems more and more players are getting them…or is it because there's more emphasis put on enforcement?

In the Northwoods, Rhinelander's been focusing on concussions since 2004.

One of the most famous Rhinelander Hodags ever is Mike Webster.

The football stadium bears his name.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer died from what the NFL's retirement board deemed brain injuries suffered from football.

"It was late in the fourth quarter against Antigo," Rhinelander Senior Linebacker Dylon Wilmot said.

"Their running back got the ball and I was playing middle linebacker obviously. When I went for a tackle, I dropped my head, as I'm taught not to, it was my own fault and I got hit on top of the head."

Wilmot knows the feeling all too well.

"I was just nauseous, a huge headache, I did not feel overall great as I normally would," Wilmot explained.

"I puked afterwards, I was not feeling great at all."

Rhinelander Athletic Trainer Eric Prom says it's not always the big ones.

"Some of the ones that are big hits aren't concussions," Prom said.

"It can sometimes be the smallest thing."

Wilmot had a concussion. He'd miss the next two games as part of his recovery.

"It was the worst feeling in the world being on the sidelines and not being able to play," Wilmot said.

He had no choice. New Wisconsin law requires athletes to sit out and be evaluated by a doctor before returning.

"The change that is occurring and happening now is a recognition," Dr. Kent Jason Lowry from Northland Orthopedics said.

"That those other more subtle, or softer symptoms - you're dizzy, you're having a headache, you're sensitive to the light, there's been some emotional changes are also signs of a head injury and need to be respected."

The NFL has taken a lead on concussions. Putting it at the top of its priority list for player safety.

The school district of Rhinelander has done this since 2004, requiring athletes to go through an impact test before they participate in sports.

The school also invested in new helmets going into this football season, however helmets sometimes can't even make the difference. It's all about education.

"What we need to do is continue to educate the students," Rhinelander School Nurse Kerri Schmidt said.

"They need to recognize the symptoms. They need to contact the coach and the athletic trainer."

"We're talking about are not symptoms we can do a test for," Dr. Lowry said.

"They're symptoms that you have to tell us about as the athlete. You're the only one that knows if you have them or not."

"It's something they always teach us, but as, being kids, we kind of overlook it," Wilmot said.

Wilmot says he knows why now. He went to the hospital after the game to be checked out.

"Once it actually happens to you, you realize how serious it is," Wilmot admits.

Serious enough to miss school and practice because of it.

"It's the worst," Wilmot said.

"I literally laid in my bed all day for a week straight."

"For us, particularly at the high school level, what we're trying to accomplish is to get people to recognize the symptoms and respect the injury," Dr. Lowry said.

Respecting the injury is worth more than just a few games, it could mean your future.

"A child's brain, an adolescent's brain is a developing brain," Schmidt said.

And one that will hopefully carry student-athletes beyond the athletic fields and into the real world.

The NFL's policy is similar to the youth one.

Most we spoke with agree it's important to have the NFL behind this push because of its wide-reaching influence.

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