ALOHA, Ore. – About 150 high school football players looking to make that next big step to college ball took to the field during a Friday night football camp, but they were also reminded about the danger of concussions from a man who barely survived permanent brain damage.
Max Conradt spoke to the players about what could happen if concussions aren’t taken seriously.
His story is a reality check for players who think they’re invincible, but the reality is students die from concussions. School districts around Oregon and Washington are taking steps to take the injury more seriously, but Conradt says high school players need to do the same.
Some of those high school players at the camp were 14 years old while others were a few years older. Many have dreams of college scholarships, national championships and even the NFL. While watching them practice, Conradt remembers his time as a football player.
“I was MVP quarterback and defensive end,” he says.
Ten years ago he was the star player with Ivy League smarts. But he suffered a concussion while playing football and then a second one which forced him to the sidelines for life.
“I had no idea I had a concussion,” he says. “I didn’t go see a doctor. No one ever talked about brain injuries in my school.”
Conradt’s mission now is to make it different for high school players. He knows his story is sobering but being at the camp gives him hope that meeting people like father and coach Dirk Knudsen will help get the message across.
“I was the football dad that was going, ‘Get my son back on the field. I want him playing,'” Knudsen says.
Knudsen has now changed his outlook and is working with Conradt to help him educate others after his own son, Konner, suffered a concussion.
“I don’t want a concussion,” says Konner. “I don’t want that to happen. So I don’t have a concussion were the thoughts in my head. I would have gone back the next week.”
Coaches kept him sidelined for three weeks thanks to a newer computer-testing system in dozens of school districts that help keep kids sidelined until they’ve fully recovered.
After meeting people like Conradt, Konner knows those kinds of safety precautions may have saved his life.
“You can die. You can die in this sport from getting hit the wrong way,” he says.
It’s a different way of looking at concussions than 10 years ago and that inspires Conradt to keep telling his story, hoping no one else has to share his fate.
“Do not play with a concussion. Do not play hurt,” he says. “It’s not worth it. I almost lost my life playing a simple game.”
Conradt hopes to keep meeting with players as he continues to recover. He’s encouraging school districts to use that new testing system that helps coaches and doctors identify who is ready to play after an initial concussion injury.
Conradt has a law named after him in Oregon. The law spells out rules for return to play. But KATU’s Problem Solver Shellie Bailey-Shah discovered schools across the state don’t implement the rules the same way.
She contacted 50 school districts in Oregon and Washington that use one company’s test to monitor possible concussions. She found 19 districts allow students to opt out with parent permission. Another 19 do not and 11 more say they require the test but admit no student has ever refused, and they’re not sure how they would react