HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - The family of a local high school football player partially paralyzed during a game is speaking out.
The 15-year-old is now regaining use of his arms and legs after injuring his head and neck.
Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach spoke with the teen, his parents and their attorney, who are now planning a lawsuit.
Eric Clark should be getting ready for his next football game for Hampton High School, but instead he now has trouble doing basic tasks, like walking.
“I’m like, this isn’t the proper hitting drill, it shouldn’t be this far apart,” Clark said.
His parents and their attorney call it an “illegal” hitting drill at a practice where Clark went down.
Clark first was not able to feel his arms or legs for about a minute, then experienced dizziness and tingling.
“I told him I couldn’t move at all,” Clark said.
But the teen’s parents and attorney said the coaches never checked him out, got him medical attention or put him in the proper protocol to keep Clark off the field.
“When that did not occur, the parents assumed everything was fine,” said attorney Lashonda Council Rogers.
“They didn’t have to ask questions, ‘How do you feel?’ ‘I’m knocked out!’ You’re going into concussion protocol whether you want to or not,” said Clark’s father, Willie Clark.
Two days later, Clark played in a Hampton High JV game and took another hit. That time, he didn’t get up.
“I went in with my head down like this, and right as I hit him, my whole body went dead and I fell on my face. I couldn’t move at all,” Clark said.
Clark was rushed to a hospital, paralyzed from the neck down.
“It’s been hard,” Willie Clark said.
The teen is now rehabbing up to six hours a day, relearning and regaining movement.
“This was preventable,” Rogers said.
Rogers links the two injuries and said Clark should have never been back on the football field.
“Had they gone through the proper protocol for identifying a concussion, then we would probably not be here today. Because it does not seem that hard of a hit, that second time that would cause someone like Eric to be paralyzed,” Rogers said.
The family said they plan to file suit against Henry County Schools any day.
Channel 2 Action News reached out to the district, but school officials told us they can’t comment on open investigations or litigation.
Clark will keep working but will never play football again.
“They have no timeframe because the swelling on his spine, no timeframe on when we would see a full recovery because they don’t know,” Willie Clark said.
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