After sustaining two concussions in two months, Apopka quarterback Zack Darlington is out indefinitely.
Apopka head coach Rick Darlington, Zack’s father, announced in writing Monday that the senior, who led the Blue Darters to the Class 8A state football title last year, will not play until he is recovered fully.
The Sentinel’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, Zack, 18, sustained the second head injury Saturday when he was tackled hard on the sideline in the fourth quarter of Apopka’s 51-36 season-opening loss at Duncan, S.C., Byrnes.
Rick Darlington said the earlier concussion occurred in a summer conditioning workout.
On Monday, the coach stated that his son has been under the care of two “excellent” doctors, James Michael Ray at the National Training Center in Clermont and Penn State’s Sam Slobounov, a concussion expert, since the initial incident in June.
“[Zack] has undergone countless tests . . . to make sure he was ready to play safely,” coach Darlington said in the release. “As has been documented, with each concussion, the brain is more susceptible to future concussions.
“For Zack to fully recover from this latest injury will take time. We do not have a timetable for his return, but we fully trust in the medical care and opinions of Dr. Ray and Dr. Slobounov.”
Darlington has received numerous scholarship offers and committed on June 14 to sign with Nebraska. In the release, his father said Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini said the offer stands, even if Zack never plays again.
Dr. Russell Bauer, a professor at the University of Florida specializing in brain function, said policies adopted by the NFL, NCAA and several high-school athletic associations — including Florida’s — are designed to protect athletes from repeated concussions.
Bauer said specialists believe that one concussion followed closely by another before full recovery can create “second-impact syndrome,” increasing the chances of catastrophic injury.
“I wouldn’t as a matter of course say, ‘Two, and you’re out,’” Bauer said. “The long-term consequences of having multiple concussions are only now beginning to be understood, but there is clinical data that indicates athletes who have had one concussion have a slightly higher likelihood of having another concussion.
“That is worrisome, and one of the reasons the recommended concussion recovery policies require a progressive return to sports.’’
The Orange County Public Schools concussion policy requires athletes diagnosed with a concussion sit out a minimum of five days and go through post-injury testing and a gradual return to competition.
“As far as I know, there are no differential guidelines that would govern a second concussion,” Bauer said of national policies. “The tried and true principle is, do the athletes remain asymptomatic [no lingering symptoms]?”
The OCPS concussion assessment program requires all athletes undergo a pre-competition baseline test that includes questions measuring memory, processing speed, reaction time, attention span and non-verbal problem-solving. Results are compared to an athlete’s performance in a post-concussion assessment, typically done by certified athletic trainers.
Bauer said OCPS is “ahead of the curve’’ among Florida school districts in enacting concussion prevention policies.
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s concussion action plan states there is an increased risk of significant damage after a concussion occurs, particularly if the athlete incurs another concussion before completely recovering from the first one. This, the FHSAA policy states, potentially can lead to severe brain-swelling, with devastating and even fatal consequences.
Saturday’s game was televised by ESPN, which showed tearful Apopka fans while Darlington lay motionless on the sideline. He was taken off the field by stretcher and was airlifted to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.
He was discharged Sunday and returned home with his parents.
Apopka (0-1) will host Oak Ridge at 7:30 Friday night.
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