A 25-yard header is rare, but even more so when the player who hit it is a high school senior who has suffered three concussions and is only a couple of years removed from thinking he would never play soccer again.
Ransom Everglades defender David Goldstein, who plays with a rugby helmet for protection, scored the far-out header last Friday, catching the University School goalie off his line and snapping a 1-1 tie in the 65th minute of a 3-1 win.
“He just powered that ball,” Ransom coach Dave Villano said.
Goldstein’s real power, though, is what he can do with what’s inside his head.
A straight-A student who has applied to Princeton University, Goldstein helped the Florida legislature pass a law — senate bill 256 — that sets guidelines for the treatment of Florida youth athletes with head injuries.
After the bill became law, Gov. Rick Scott came to Miami last month and met with Goldstein before performing the ceremonial signing.
Goldstein also raised $35,000 to provide ImPACT baseline concussion testing for all athletes at Miami-Dade County public schools. Once an athlete suffers a blow to the head, his post-injury tests are compared to his baseline, or pre-injury, exams.
“David singlehandedly made sure that every athlete in our county can be ImPACT tested,” said GMAC instructional supervisor Cheryl Golden, who added that Ransom has committed to perpetuating the fund, spending roughly $7,000 per year to test all incoming freshman athletes in the county.
Goldstein’s history with brain trauma began while playing soccer in the sixth grade, when he was hit in the head with a booted ball at close range. A head-to-head collision in the eighth grade became his second concussion.
His third happened as a freshman at Ransom, playing a district final against Gulliver. Goldstein had already gotten rid of the ball when a Gulliver senior crashed into his head violently.
“You can see on the game tape that instantly my hands went to my head,” Goldstein said. “But I didn’t realize the severity of the injury at the time. Now, I know I should’ve come out of the game right away.
“I’m lucky I didn’t get hit again. When a youth athlete gets a concussion and isn’t removed from play and then gets another blow to the head, that’s second-impact syndrome. There’s a potential of brain damage and even death.”
Goldstein’s symptoms persisted for nearly four months, and it got so bad that he would often have to take naps at the nurse’s office during school hours.
Several doctors told Goldstein there was nothing they could do to help, but that changed when he visited with the team at University of Miami Sports Medicine.
“They told me that a lot of my problems were caused by a balance issue and that there was medicine that could help me,” Goldstein said. “They told me I could play soccer again if I took the proper precautions.”
Inspired by his doctors, Goldstein decided to make sure that other young athletes don’t go through a similar ordeal.
After raising the money to fund the baseline tests in Miami, Goldstein was contacted by the Florida Brain Injury Association. They wanted him to join their effort to increase brain injury awareness and protection.
Goldstein made several trips to Tallahassee to speak to state legislators. The bill met opposition, however, and was defeated in May of 2011.
Undaunted, Goldstein and his cohorts came right back. Earlier this spring, Goldstein found himself in front of the Senate Health Regulation Committee, engaged in a debate of sorts.
“Here’s this 17-year-old,” Goldstein said of himself, “going up against this long-time senator [Dennis Jones, 71].
“I wouldn’t say I was responsible [for the passing of the bill], but it exemplified that we were ready this time. We weren’t going to get outmaneuvered, and it ended up passing unanimously.”
Since the passing of the bill, student-athletes who want to play high school sports in Miami-Dade County must sign consent forms designed to educate them on concussions.
If an athlete is under suspicion of having a head injury, they must be removed from play, and they cannot return until a medical doctor clears them.
“This puts injured athletes in the proper hands,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein himself returned for his sophomore and junior seasons and is now a team captain.
“David’s a very good high school soccer player,” Villano said. “He’s not sure yet whether he will play college soccer, but he is an indomitable competitor. With his ability to inspire and organize, he is one of the best captains I’ve ever had.”
Villano said Goldstein’s impact will be felt long after he graduates from Ransom.
“In the old days, we as coaches had no awareness of what to look for in regards to a concussion,” Villano said. “We’d just ask a kid, ‘How many fingers?,’ and if he guessed right, they were right back on the field.
“Now we have a lot better idea of what to look for, thanks to David.”
For more information, please visit countywideconcussioncare.com