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Nixa Football Team Boosts Efforts to Curb Concussions

NIXA, Mo. -- Prep football season is here. Kick-off is this week for many area teams. While high school teams will be aiming at a state title, there are injuries that go hand-in-hand with this contact sports.
NIXA, Mo. -- Prep football season is here. Kick-off is this week for many area teams.

While high school teams will be aiming at a state title, there are injuries that go hand-in-hand with this contact sports.

One of the most dangerous, and most common injuries, is concussions.

At Nixa High School Monday, all the players KOLR10 News spoke with had either a concussion in the past, or had a teammate with the injury.

Dallas Whitehall suffered a severe concussion during a football game his freshman year.

"Me and this kid collided and the way my head was turned, it smacked against my head and I fell and hit the ground."

Whitehall says the effects stayed with him long after he left that field.

"It impacted school a lot," he recalls. "Just being with the lights and reading and loud noises and people talking just hurt your head."

It's now his senior year and he's still out on the field.

"It doesn't scare me to get hit."

The concussion didn't cause him to fear the game, but it did worry his trainer, Nathan Graff.

"It's kind of hard to watch," he says. "Not being able to answer simple questions about what they ate for breakfast or what their birthday is or what their name is sometimes."

He says the head injuries are all too common. Twenty-two Nixa players had concussions last year.

"Unfortunately it's part of a violent football game."

Graff is trying to help by creating a new exercise to prevent the injury.

"Isometric neck strengthening to try and get the neck muscles stronger to try and brace for impact."

He says the high school is also helping by replacing older helmets with a high-tech version. It has more cushion inside to help prevent the concussions.

But Graff and Whitehall agree there is no surefire way to prevent concussions, aside from not playing the game.

All Nixa football players take an impact test at the beginning of the season. Then they're supposed to take it again after an injury to test the severity of the concussion.

That's a testing effort now being mandated in many states, but here the kids only get re-tested if they go to Cox Hospital for treatment.
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