The father of the 5-foot-9 linebacker waited for the sound that makes him wince.
“You can hear it from here,” said Alfredo Lira, sitting at the far side of the bleachers at Buena High School (Ventura, Calif.). His eyes widened as he imagined the pop of a helmet colliding with a shoulder pad, a knee or another helmet.
“As I hear it, I feel it,” said the truck driver. “I feel like a lump in my throat.”
Raising his binoculars, he pointed at his son jogging on the field with a kick return team. The 17-year-old loves football. Alfredo does not want him to stop playing and thinks the sport provides motivation.
He still worries.
“I saw three guys on him earlier, and they were bigger than him,” he said, eyes wide again. “He got up like nothing. He was fine.”
The anxiety is part of high school football, driven by National Football League controversies and rule changes, research linking head injuries to brain damage and the 2015 movie that’s on Alfredo Lira’s must-see list, “Concussion.”