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Violent hazing leaves Florida freshman hospitalized in neck brace

Cameron Smith
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High school football hazing was thrust back into the spotlight on Wednesday when WKMG-TV in Orlando reported that a freshman football player for Dr. Phillips (Fla.) High School was choked until he passed out, beaten with chairs, punched and thrown in a garbage can as part of a hazing ritual. The teenager, Darrion Denson, suffered a concussion and had to be taken to a nearby hospital in a neck brace. Doctors told ClickOrlando.com that it would take would take at least three weeks for Denson's brain injuries to heal.

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"He was hit with two chairs, kicked, punched (and) thrown in a garbage can," said Rena Denson, the player's mother. "My son has a concussion. It could have been worse. He could be dead."

More troubling still, Denson told WKMG-TV that when she reported the incident to the school's football coaches, her concerns were dismissed out of hand.

"I was so upset, I couldn't think," she said. "They laughed at me. They thought it was a joke. Do you know what it's like to be a mother, a parent and feel you children aren't safe at school? This is not a joke. This horrific hazing is not a joke. This is our son."

Police confirmed to OrlandoSentinel.com that a complaint had been filed by the mother of a 15-year-old boy, and ClickOrlando.com reported that investigators had taken pictures of Denson and were planning to interview witnesses to the attack.

Denson's hospitalization isn't the first case of hazing this fall, though it might be the most troubling. In late August, the football program of Elk River High School in Minnesota was briefly suspended indefinitely after allegations of hazing involving broomsticks surfaced. Following a police investigation, four players were dismissed from the team and five other players and six coaches were punished for part of the season. Just yesterday those six coaches were reinstated by the Elk River School Board, though they were given additional unidentified penalties for their actions.

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While police and school investigations are forthcoming, the hazing allegations could cast a pall over a successful start to Dr. Phillips' season. The Panthers, currently ranked No. 38 in the nation in the RivalsHigh 100, rolled to a 48-7 rout of Edgewater last week in their season opener and face off against Osceola on Friday night.

Yet all on the field concerns seem distant compared to worries over Denson's well being. The freshman has said he no longer wants to be a part of the Dr. Phillips football program, and his mother contrasted how the school handled the attack with its general reputation.

"I thought Dr. Phillips was a renowned, respected high school with an excellent athletic program," she told WKMG-TV.

Photos courtesy WKMG-TV.

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