Randee Drew saw stars as he dropped to one knee.
Moments before, the 190-pound Northern Illinois cornerback attempted to tackle a 270-pound Wisconsin Badgers tight end in a game at Camp Randall Stadium during the 2002 season.
"I whacked him with everything I had," said Drew, a member of the Nicolet High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
"I was kind of woozy for about two plays," he added during a recent interview. "I said, 'Please Lord, don't throw the ball over here,' because I wasn't all there."
Given the hard-hitting nature of football, there is not much that can be done to prevent concussions, according to Drew. However, Drew said that once an athlete is dazed by a big hit, trainers, coaches and parents need to proper care is given to the young athlete.
"Precautionary measures are never a bad thing, especially when you are playing such a gladiator sport like this," said Drew, who was signed by the San Francisco 49ers before playing in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League.
State lawmakers take notice
It's not just major college and professional athletes who deal with head injuries. Concussions and related incidents are common among young athletes in high school and club sports, and prevention and management been a focus both for school officials and lawmakers.
State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Reps. Anthony Staskunas (D-West Allis), Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) and Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) co-authored or co-sponsored Assembly Bill 259, which requires an athlete who is suspected of having a concussion to be removed from the activity and not allowed to participate until evaluated and cleared by a health care provider.
"The idea is to make people aware of what the signs are for a concussion," Delaporte said. "Sometimes they are hard to diagnose because you're not bleeding, you don't have a broken arm. It's not obvious sometimes … but it has to be taken seriously."
The bill — which has been approved by the Legislature and forwarded to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature — calls on the Department of Public Instruction and Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to "develop guidelines and other information for the purpose of educating athletic coaches and pupil athletes and their parents or guardians about the nature and risk of concussion and head injury in youth athletic activities."
The bill also does not limit enforcement to high school sports specifically, despite the involvement of the WIAA.
School district responses
For Scott Kugi, activities coordinator at Muskego-Norway School District, one of the positive components of the legislation is that it gives teeth to local school district policies.
"We need to be able to say that, besides the medical evidence that we know to be true, this is a law," Kugi said.
The district follows a protocol set forth by the International Conference on concussions and WIAA guidelines. Those guidelines, in general, recommend concise evaluation, incremental steps when assessing an athlete's injury and a progressive steps to return to play.
During the past several years, the district has made strides creating an awareness in regards to concussions, said Kugi. The school outsources to Aurora Sports Medicine, which does a significant amount of work educating athletes, coaches and parents.
"It wasn't easy because quite often there are still people that believe that you need to brush it off and toughen up," Kugi said. "We had to convince some people that we are doing the right thing."
The Shorewood School District does not have a formal policy in place, but plans to implement baseline testing next year. When an injury does occur, evaluators can administer new tests and compare the results with the baselines to guide the decision on allowing athletes back to action.
School district and club sports are also challenged when star athletes play through injury and pain because, if they sit, they might miss an opportunity for a scholarship.
"I don't know many people … who would say they need to come out," Drew said.