San Diego teen coping with traumatic football injury

Posted at 3:17 PM, Apr 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-15 16:30:48-04

Nearly five years after suffering a life-changing concussion, Rashaun Council is still working on getting better.





Rashaun Council, took a hit during a football game that would alter his life. The 19-year-old former honor student and two-sport athlete spoke to Team 10 about the challenges he still faces. 




“I still have left side weakness, but I’m slowly adapting to the big change in my life,” Council said. 



Council's life changed in the middle of a football game on October 17, 2013. Council was playing for Monte Vista High School on the freshman football team. 



According to a lawsuit the family filed in 2014, the teenager “complained to his football coaches that he had begun to feel ill.” The lawsuit stated that his coaches failed to alert medical personnel. 


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“[He] suffered from a concussion and had a subdural hematoma,” the lawsuit stated. 



Council spent the next eight months in the hospital.


He is unable to drive and still has difficulty walking and communicating. Council walks with a limp and is unable to fully move his left arm.



“Recently, I just got a new WalkAide to help me walk better,” Council said. He explained that the system helps stimulate the muscles in his leg.


Council said that speech is something he still works on daily.



“It gets very frustrating, but I try to deal with it,” he said.





Recently, the family settled their lawsuit with the Grossmont Union High School District for about $7.1 million. They also settled the lawsuit with the helmet maker Riddell for an undisclosed amount.


“Eventually, I will get back into work out and rebuilding those connections in my brain,” Council said.



“He’s going to need ongoing care and assistance for the rest of his life,” said his attorney Brian Gonzalez. 




Since his incident in 2013, there has been more attention to concussions. A law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017 requires all youth sports organizations—not just high school sports—to follow certain safety protocols. That includes removing a player suspected of having a concussion. 



As far as medical attention at the high school level, Gonzalez said there are ambulances ready for varsity football games within the Grossmont district, but it is lacking for lower levels of football.


"I try to move past it and think for the better," said Council.

“They don’t have them for JV or frosh level games and those are the students who don’t know how to play to the level that the varsity players do,” Gonzalez said.



In 2015, when Team 10 first interviewed Council, a district spokesperson said that there do have physicians at varsity level games and that “trainers will be at all home games and may be at visiting games for all three levels of football.”



Team 10 asked if that policy was updated. The deputy superintendent did not specifically answer that question, but instead told Team 10 they provide “concussion training and compliance with state concussion guidelines, appropriate support staff, 911 protocols and recertification/replacement of helmets prior to each season.”


Any precaution appears to be a positive change for the at-risk group.  A Centers for Disease Control study showed people Council’s age had the second-highest rates of hospitalization for traumatic brain injury.





Council’s memory of that day was wiped clean after his injury. He said he could not remember a single play from the game when 10News first met him. Such traumatic brain injuries (TBI) at his age may be an extreme example of what can wrong on the football field.


To understand the risks associated with any delay in caring for possible TBI, 10News contacted Dr. Allen Richburg with the San Diego Sports Medicine and Family Center after Council’s initial injury. Richburg is not affiliated with Council’s case, but specializes in sports injuries.



"Brain injury is a whole different ball-game," Richburg explained. "The developing brain is going to be the most important brain to protect. An adage is: when in doubt, take him out for evaluation.”



The Centers for Disease Control created a YouTube campaign, illustrating the damage a concussion can inflict on your brain, and starting a “Keeping Quiet Can Keep You Out of the Game” series of stories from student-athletes who didn't report their head injuries.


"I’m not putting down the sport of football, but I just want you guys to know that there are risks and stuff out there,” Council said.


Council chooses to focus on what’s next. After Mesa College, he hopes to go to Stanford to study mechanical engineering, then biomedical engineering.



He has a piece of advice for those listening to his story.



“I’ve learned a lot throughout my life. I learned no matter what it is, always put your full effort into it,” Council said. 


See the full Team 10 report here: