High school football is huge in Texas, but it can be dangerous for teens. Doctors say that small head trauma from hard hits can add up to devastating consequences. Local 2's Lauren Freeman sat down with one teenager who survived a brain injury suffered during football practice.
Dalton Walker, 15, loves playing with his dog to relax and if you saw him, you'd never know he suffered a brain injury less than a year ago. He says they were doing a linebacker drill when it happened. During football practice his life changed forever. "I got knocked back and was kinda unconscious for -- no one knows how long," he said.
He was wearing a helmet, but after the hit, he was dizzy and continued practice. It wasn't until after practice that his mom Cassandra received the bad news. "I picked him up and he said, 'Mom, I think I have a concussion.'"
His condition got worse. He suffered from concussion, a headache and eventually he was unable to walk. He was diagnosed with frontal lobe nerve damage. His mom says they think it wasn't one bad hit that caused his brain injury but a series of smaller hits.
Dr. Dong Kim with Memorial Herman UT Health and The Mischer Neuroscience Institute says parents and coaches have to closely watch student athletes. He told Local 2, "What we know now is it's the cumulative amount of injury that has the long-term effect, so it doesn't have to be one or two severe injuries, it can be multiple small ones."
He went on to say, "There is a vulnerable period where immediately after a concussion a second injury can amplify the effects significantly."
He says to watch for the subtle symptoms of a concussion.
"It can be a feeling of not being able to focus or something is a little bit off. If they feel mild nausea, usually they are not throwing up or they come from practice and say, 'I have a headache,'" Kim said.
The doctor says the symptoms can last days or even weeks.
Now, Dalton and his mom are on a mission to warn other families of the warning signs of brain injuries.
Cassandra says, "Just really talk to your kids and make sure they communicate with you and the coach if they feel something is funny."
Dalton says his faith in God and his puppy, Maddie, have helped him get through this. Dalton's long-term prognosis is good but he still gets dizzy frequently, suffers from headaches, as well as sensitivity to noise and light.
Dalton says through all this, he's decided he wants to be a neurologist. He knows he'll never play football and he's okay with that. His mother Cassandra is writing a book about all they've been through together. She's currently working with Dalton's school to get him caught up on his studies after missing so much school.