By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
A hard hit on the football field forced a Farrell High sophomore into a year of isolation.
It hurt to look at his cell phone and TV. Even having the lights on in his bedroom bothered him for months.
“I basically sat in my room doing nothing for a year,” said Tyson Andrada, now 17.
Doctors said the teen suffered a “severe concussion” during one of Farrell’s last football games of the 2012 season.
Everything changed in an instant for Andrada during one play.
The score was tied with less than a minute left in the playoff game between Farrell and Mercer that November. Andrada, a sophomore for the Steelers, was at safety on the defense.
His only focus was stopping Mercer’s receiver from catching the football and running less than 30 yards to the end zone.
When his much taller opponent jumped in the air to catch the ball, Andrada knew he was too late to have a chance at catching it himself, so he tackled the other player.
Andrada remembers only “seeing stars,” he said. He stumbled to the sidelines and felt himself “zoning in and out.”
“My eyes felt like really low,” he said, making a motion to indicate his eyes seeming to fall like dead weights in his head.
“I started crying and I was drooling.”
Now a junior, Andrada said he remembers every moment he played for the Steelers. “There’s just so many good memories with the team.”
Since then, Andrada has suffered migraine headaches, dehydration, sensitivity to noise and lights, and nausea.
Farrell schools provided a homeschool tutor for him for the remainder of his sophomore year. Most of the time, he said, the teacher read to him because he could not do it without getting sick.
In February 2013, Andrada was unable to endure playing an hour of basketball. His body shook uncontrollably, and he felt so bad he started to cry.
“I guess I overdid it. I love playing basketball down there,” Andrada said. “I can’t just sit in the house all day doing nothing.”
Doctors cleared him to return to school in September 2013, but not to play football. A neurologist recently cleared him to play football in his senior year, much to his mother’s dismay.
Andrada said school officials need to “take these concussions seriously.”
He said without a doubt he will play football for the Steelers his senior year but would feel better if his team were “way more protected.”
“My friends thought I was going to die,” Andrada said, adding that he’d like to see helmets with more padding.
Farrell’s head coach, Jarrett Samuels, said what happened to Andrada was “terrifying.”
Samuels said he supports the use of anything that prevents head trauma.
He would like to see the use of “shock strips,” which are six strips of padding on the outside of the helmet.
“When you duck your head, you’re susceptible to injury,” Samuels said. “It’s very important to teach fundamentals on this, even on a professional level where they don’t tackle fundamentally.”
He said at age 9, it’s hard for a player to keep his head up.
“Once they start playing in the midget level they should have shock strips – at minimum – on their helmets,” Samuels said. “It’s a shame but a lot of it is based on the finances of the program.”
Andrada has advice for kids who play football and their parents: “Make sure the helmets fit them right. A lot of times in midgets they just give it (equipment) to them or they (players) get it themselves.”
He has three sisters and three brothers, and admits he would be nervous if he had to watch one of them play football.
“Even if you got the right gear, you could still get hurt,” Andrada said.