ROUND ROCK, Texas -- The Cedar Ridge Raiders hit the practice field for two-a-days Monday morning. Just like other teams in the Round Rock Independent School District, scorching heat greeted players. The triple digit temperature wasn't the only hot topic. Concussions were too.
"It wasn't really anything I thought about when I was younger," said Josh Arzola, a sophomore linebacker for the Raiders. "Nowadays you see it on the NFL and on TV and ESPN."
Players say they can't help but learn from what they see on TV.
"It's definitely changed the mind set," said Arzola.
"When I see like a bigger person than me ,and I feel like it's going to hurt, I kind of punk out a little bit," said Keith Bazzle, a sophomore linebacker for the Raiders. "I'm not going to sit here and lie."
"You can still definitely get the kill shot on someone," said Arzola. "But if you do it the right way and don't lead with your head as much and you lead with your shoulders and chest, you should be all right."
Of course the key for any football coach, high school or otherwise, is determining that balance between live football contact and safety.
"It's extremely delicate," said Todd Ford, the head football coach at Cedar Ridge. "It's really a case-by-case basis. We're the head coach, and we want to create toughness whenever we can, but we just really have to be smart."
"I think they've (coaches and athletic trainers) have learned the importance that you only have one brain," said Diana Salter, the Scott & White Concussion Center coordinator. She supervises the hospital's athletic training program that works with several schools in the Round Rock and Georgetown school districts.
"I think the awareness is there and to take care of it," said Salter. "It's no longer, 'You're a sissy' for sitting out. Once you feel a symptom, you tell someone."
Student athletes who enter the Scott & White concussion program are monitored once a week. Salter says only a physician can clear them to resuming playing but only after parents submit a form to the University Interscholastic League.