The Coastal Star

Tots & Teens: Safety advocate donates helmets to lacrosse team

Bill Dorton, co-founder of Head Injury Treatment Corp in Delray Beach, speaks to students at St. Joseph’s Episcopal School about sports-related head injuries. Photo provided by Carol Cunningham

By Janis Fontaine

For kids who play sports, back-to-school means back to the playing fields. When the girls’ lacrosse team at St. Joseph Episcopal School in Boynton Beach takes the field, the players will sport new protective headgear donated by Head Injury Treatment Corp, a Delray Beach-based nonprofit.

Bill Dorton, a personal trainer from Delray Beach, co-founded HiT Corp in 2018. Dorton sustained as many as eight concussions when he played football in middle and high school. He suffered from post-concussion syndrome, a constellation of symptoms of neurological damage usually resulting from repeated concussions.

For 15 years Dorton suffered, but he hid his condition from most people until about a year ago when he was treated at the Plasticity Brain Centers in Orlando. Instead of taking drugs to mask symptoms as doctors had given him for years, he had an extensive week-long course of therapy. In response he founded HiT Corp with Jarrett Solimando and Brad Chapman to raise money to pay for other PCS patients to get treatment.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain gets sloshed around inside the skull. It doesn’t take a catastrophic blow to cause brain tissue to stretch and cells to bruise. Because the brain is the body’s control center, damage to it can cause chemical and metabolic changes within brain cells, causing a plethora of symptoms.

Dorton’s symptoms were debilitating. For 15 years he had headaches, nausea, insomnia, memory issues, confusion and loss of focus, but he kept working: “No matter how bad you’re feeling you can’t let your client know. That’s an important hour to them so I got good at hiding my symptoms.”

Matthew Antonucci, a chiropractic neurologist and co-founder and president of Orlando’s BPC, says his team uses cutting-edge technology to isolate and identify the part of the brain that isn’t working properly. Then the team develops a comprehensive rehab plan specific to that person, using treatment such as oculomotor training, chiropractic and physical therapy, speech and occupational therapy, and vestibular rehab to improve balance.

For Dorton, 33, the work included exercises to strengthen the connection between his eyes and his brain. Dorton describes the breakdown as “My eyes were telling my brain that my head was sideways.”

Concussions can be difficult to diagnose because everyone’s symptoms are different. There’s no “classic presentation” or blood test or biomarker that can determine if a concussion has occurred.

The smartest treatment involves taking measures to avoid injury in the first place.

Dorton, a friend of St. Joe’s coach Kristina Bosch, was surprised to learn that helmets were optional for middle-school lacrosse teams (except goalies). “Helmets optional,” Dorton knew, was antiquated thinking. Scientific American reported that one in five student athletes will suffer a concussion this year, and females produce symptoms that are greater in number and severity, take longer to recover, and result in worse outcomes than males, but males are more likely to hide an injury.

On Sept. 6, HiT Corp planned to present St. Joseph’s lacrosse team with 26 shiny, logoed helmets, plus two goalie helmets, one for every player. Dorton says the money is well spent, but what he would really like to see is the rules changed so helmets are required.

On Sept. 21, to mark the first anniversary of the founding of HiT Corp and to support National Concussion Awareness Day, the nonprofit will hold a 5K relay race at Anchor Park in Delray Beach.

Teams of three compete, with each person running just over a mile, Dorton said, so it’s a great bonding experience. Funds raised will support HiT Corp’s primary promise to help people who need but can’t afford treatment.

For more information about Dorton or HiT Corp, visit www.hitcorp.org.

For information on St. Joseph’s Episcopal School, visit www.sjsonline.org.

If You Go

The inaugural HiT Corp 5K Relay Race: 7:30 a.m. Sept. 21, Anchor Park, South Ocean Boulevard at Casuarina Road, Delray Beach. $40 per team. Register team of three at www.runsignup.com/hitcorp.

Contact Janis Fontaine at janisfontaine@outlook.com.

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