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Largo High football injury rekindles ambulance debate | HS Sports

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Largo High football injury rekindles ambulance debate
HS Sports

Largo, FL -- Should an ambulance be present at all High School football games?

You may have assumed they already are, since about half of all high school athletics injuries occur on the football field, but look around and in the Bay Area you'll find they are not present in many cases.

The issue came up again over the weekend.

Largo football player Taj Taylor, the young football player who was not in class today- but instead at home recovering, gave his family a scare Friday night during a game against Dunedin.

"I got a headache and my neck hurts," said Taj.

It was a wicked hit that left the sophomore lying on the field motionless.

Photos: Concerned fans look on as Taj waits for EMTs 

His parents and teammates waited for what felt like an eternity for an ambulance to arrive. Records show it was closer to five minutes. But there's question about how long it took EMS to get into the stadium and through the crowd once they got to the address.

"It was a dire situation and we're all very concerned to what was happening, and the fact that no one was there to respond to that need," said Taj's mother, Melissa.

The family questions the Pinellas School Disctrict's policy to provide medical personnel, but no ambulance or EMT's at the school's football games.

The policy decision was quietly made in 2004, and was aimed at saving the district about $40,000 a year back then.

Sue Rodenbeck says she can relate to the Taj's frightening injury, because nine years ago, when they pulled the ambulances, it was her son Paul lying motionless on the field at Clearwater High.

She calls the policy a dangerous gamble.

"I still don't see where sacrificing kids' health and lives for money is the right option," said Rodenbeck. "It really is just a matter of time before someone doesn't get up. And then you wonder will they pay attention then? Is that what it's gonna take?"

But District Athletic Director Nick Grasso defended the policy.

Grasso says Pinellas schools instead provide trainers and medical personnel for their young athletes, and call upon ambulances if needed.

The money is instead spent on a 20 hour per week program. They contract with local sports medicine providers.

That way, not only are football games covered, he says, but practices and other athletic events are as well. Girl's volleyball, for example.

And the medical expertise is available five days a week. Not just Friday nights. 

"As I understand at this point, they responded and reacted appropriately," said Grasso. "And they are highly qualified and certified to handle these types of incidents that occur."

Hillsborough County provides ambulances at its Junior Varsity and Varsity football games.

Pasco County leaves the decision up to individual schools, which in some cases, ask parents and boosters to cover the cost.

That's an idea Taj's mom says she would support.

"I would not mind paying for that if it means our children are going to be safe," she said.

Grasso has promised to ask questions about the specific emergency medical plan in place during Friday's Dunedin game.

He also says he would not hesitate to implement any changes if it's necessary, but for now he says he has every confidence in measures they have in place to ensure the safety of their students.

He says he will also repeat a request he has made before to local cities, asking them to base their EMS crews at Friday Football game stadiums, so if there is an issue they'll be close by.

Grasso says municipalities are under no obligation to do so, but that in the past, some had voluntarily complied.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

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