Kerali Davis and her son Brady’s story is all too familiar for many people across the country. Her son, an eigth grader on the middle school football team in Newcastle at the time, ran into an player on the opposing team during a kickoff. Neither was at fault, but the results were devastating.
The other player lost consciousness for a moment, but Brady was awake. However, the athletic trainer determined Brady was showing signs of concussion and pulled him from the game. With a little time, he seemed better. He say a doctor in an attempt to get clearance to return to play, and all seemed good.
A few days later, everything changed. Brady couldn’t remember how to do math. Kerali thought it was a joke at first, but then she looked into his eyes. “I could see he was being completely honest,” she told NewsOK, “I just couldn’t believe it.” Brady’s concussion was finally manifesting itself into serious symptoms.
“I always thought if you got a concussion … you rest a couple of days and you’re good to go,” she said. But, as she was finding out, that isn’t the truth about concussion. Kerali realized she needed to know more about what her son was going through. She went to presentations, read every online resource she could find, and began reaching out to Brooke de Lench, founder of MomsTEAM, an online resource for youth sports health and safety information.
After a couple years, Kerali and the other parents on the board of Newcastle’s youth sports association decided it was time to make concussion education a priority. Too many are uninformed about the reality of brain injury and were harboring misconceptions similar to her old notions of concussion. They sent out pamphlets, brought in experts, and reached out everywhere they could, but in the end they felt they needed to do more.
Then, Kerali sent an email to de Lench looking for guidance and assistance. She was looking to start testing some of the concussion sensor technology similar to the Guardian Caps being introduced to football fields currently.
De Lench soon called Kerali. It was a bad news-good news phone call. While there were no concussion sensor technology available for youth football teams, they do exist for high school helmets. Plus, de Lench had been considering making a documentary about a place trying to do really take concussion serious.
The high school agreed, and soon camera crews were following coaches, players, trainers, and parents as they investigated and fought against concussions on the football field with impact sensors, heads-up tackling rules, and a heightened focus on improved neck and shoulder strength.
A year later, and the documentary is finished. “The Smartest Team” debuts Wednesday night on OETA and is expected to air on PBS stations throughout the fall. All Kerali Davis hopes is that parents and young athletes will see the town’s stoory and try to help spread the knowledge where they are.