Concussion seminar set for Thursday

For Chastin Valdez, playing time is sparse in perhaps his last chance to compete in an athletic endeavor.

Valdez is a little-used senior outfielder on the Maui High School baseball team, but in the fall of 2011 he was an up-and-coming running back for the Sabers in football, finishing fourth in the Maui Interscholastic League in rushing with 331 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries.

A severe concussion ended Valdez’s dreams of a lengthy football career before the end of his sophomore season. The final hit came in the second round of play against Baldwin.

“The next day, I didn’t remember anything, I had to ask my mom if we had a game that night,” Valdez said between baseball games Saturday at Maehara Stadium. “She said, ‘Yes,’ and I didn’t really know.”

Valdez’s experiences are why he will be at a free seminar on concussions scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Maui High cafeteria – the keynote speaker will be St. Louis School football coach Cal Lee.

“I am not even the same yet,” nearly 2-1/2 years later, says the 5-foot-4, 154-pound Valdez.

“Football was my life, I played since I was 7 years old. I couldn’t believe it, but everything happens for a reason.”

Valdez said he lost some coordination on his right side and had to practice writing, walking and talking – he is still working to get back to where he was before the injury. He now writes with his left hand, though he still plays baseball right-handed.

“I took myself for granted,” Valdez said. “I wanted to do everything, but I couldn’t.”

Maui High trainer Chris Pagdilao said the seminar will provide vital information for parents, athletes, coaches and administrators.

“Just for pure safety,” he said. “You just want to make sure that every kid who goes into any sport, they know what’s going on, the parents know what’s going on. It’s just sure that they are healthy.”

Pagdilao said concussion knowledge has grown significantly in the last two years.

“There is baseline testing, like in the NFL,” he said. “We just monitor (the MIL athletes) though daily testing and communication. Because there is a state law, it is a lot more prevalent and we are a lot more aware of what’s going on.”

Valdez plans to attend the University of Hawaii Maui College in the fall before perhaps transferring to Nevada-Las Vegas.

He is not sure what he wants to study.

“Not anymore because my goal was to play football in college and then try to make it to the NFL if I could,” he said. “It didn’t turn out that way and it makes me super bummed out, like, super sad, but at least I got a second chance at life.”

Valdez says doctors have told him that his football-ending concussion was a cumulative result from many years of blows.

“I started really feeling it the following Wednesday at 4 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “My (ceiling) fan is on fast speed and I looked up and it was spinning slow.”

He was taken immediately to the emergency room and struggled with severe symptoms for more than 10 hours.

“They told me I had a stroke or too many concussions,” Valdez said.

Now, he smiles when he talks about it. School is going well.

“Actually, I got a little smarter,” he said. “It knocked some sense into me, I guess.”

Valdez is eager to see others gain information from Thursday’s event.

“Everybody should know because people think concussions are not a big deal, but it’s totally a big deal,” he said. “Anything from just, like, cracking your neck or hitting your head or sneezing can give you a concussion.”

* Robert Collias is at