Physical performance is important for young players in the ultra-competitive world of sports in Mississippi. MPB's Mark Rigsby attended the Mississippi Student-Athlete Sports Forum in Jackson, where experts advised coaches, trainers and administrators to put the health of athletes above wins and loses.
"Back when I was playing, nobody classified it as a concussion. You just got your head rang. You got your bell rang. So, I would say yes. I've had a number of concussions. That was just protocol back then. You just played through it."
That's former Ole Miss All-American Terrance Metcalf, talking about the culture of dealing with concussions during his football career. But times have changed. University of Mississippi Medical Center can now help high school coaches and trainers diagnose and treat concussions, while a game is in progress. An athlete needing attention can be seen by a doctor, simply by using a tablet to connect to the hospital's tele-health service. Dr. Brian Tollefson works in the emergency room.
"There aren't a lot of good treatments for a concussion. Most of the time it's giving them time to recover, so their body can actually repair itself. And then, you need to recognize when they're ready to go back to play, and not get them back in there too early," says Tollefson.
Another health concern is staying properly hydrated in the oppressive Mississippi heat. David Wilbanks' son Walker, a starting defensive lineman at Jackson Prep, died after playing the first game of the 2014 football season.
"These guys need to know these things, and come to these things to be educated, so we don't have a tragedy like we had with Walker," says Wilbanks.
Wilbanks died of hyponatremia. A condition where sodium levels are low. It's caused by over-hydrating.
His death has raised awareness to the dangers it poses to athletes in Mississippi.