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High school football: Concussion education becomes priority in Newcastle

Kerali Davis hopes the town's story might help teach others who were once like her where concussions are concerned.
by Jenni Carlson Published: August 11, 2013
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photo - Newcastle Racer players take the field to play the Tuttle Tigers in high school football on Friday, September 9, 2011, in Newcastle, Okla.   Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Newcastle Racer players take the field to play the Tuttle Tigers in high school football on Friday, September 9, 2011, in Newcastle, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

Kerali Davis thought her son was messing with her.

How could he forget how to do math?

But then the Newcastle mother looked in his eyes.

“And I could see he was being completely honest,” she said. “I just couldn't believe it.”

The culprit: a concussion in a football game.

That experience completely changed Kerali Davis, and now, she's trying to change the culture in her small town south of Oklahoma City — and beyond. An email that she sent sparked the filming of a documentary about the Newcastle High football team and its efforts to reduce concussions and their effects.

“The Smartest Team” will debut Wednesday night on OETA and is expected to air on PBS stations around the country this fall.

It would never have happened if not for a nasty collision three years ago.

Kerali's son Brady was an eighth grader on the middle school football team, and one night, he ran into a player from the opposing team during a kickoff. Neither was looking up. Neither was at fault. But it was ugly.

The player from the other team was knocked out for a moment.

Brady never lost consciousness, but the school's certified athletic trainer determined he was showing signs of a concussion. Because of school policy, he was pulled from the game.

School policy also mandated that he see a physician and get clearance to return, and once he saw the doctor, all signs were positive. He seemed to be on the mend.

A few days later, however, Brady came home from school upset.

“What's wrong?” Kerali asked.

“I couldn't remember how to do math,” he replied.

Kerali was stunned.

“I always thought if you got a concussion ... you rest a couple of days and you're good to go,” she said.

She realized that she needed to know more about concussions, so she started reading everything she could find.

While accompanying Brady to a quarterback camp, Kerali heard a presentation by Brooke de Lench, founder of MomsTEAM. It is an online resource for youth sports health and safety information. Kerali began using the website regularly and occasionally asking de Lench for help.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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