Concussions force former Kahuku athlete to walk away from football

Concussions force former Kahuku athlete to walk away from football

LAIE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The movie "Concussion" opens nationwide Christmas Day, but it's already causing a stir.

The movie focuses on Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disorder brought on by repeated head trauma.

Across the nation, many football players are walking away from the game, some by choice, others from the effects of such trauma. Here in Hawaii, one such athlete is Aofaga Wily.

In 2011 and 2012, Wily was the best high school running back in the state, winning a pair of state titles for Kahuku high School. He entertained multiple mainland college offers but settled at the University of Hawaii. His career was cut short, however, just months into his first season after suffering side effects from head trauma.

"To this day I still suffer triggered migraines, headaches all the time. So I'm on Motrin all the time, Vicodin," he said.

As a freshman, Wily burst into the starting lineup. One fateful practice in September, his life changed forever.

"It was a run play through the middle, a safety came up, hit me in the head, and I got a concussion".  Aofaga, who possessed a combination of power and elusiveness on the field, couldn't shake the symptoms as he had so many defenders.

"I couldn't function in school. I was getting headaches in class, I couldn't stay patient in my seat. I had to move."

The season was lost but he still entertained notions of a comeback. In the spring of 2014, the end came when he was rear-ended in his car while driving to campus.

"I got whiplash, knocked out for a little bit and woke up on the side of the freeway."

The resulting pain forced him to go on hiatus from school. Last summer, he officially called it quits.

He struggled for months trying to find purpose, but has found passion as a husband, father and cook at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Wily says the adrenaline of being in a busy kitchen during the rush keeps him focused.

"Working hard, I've been improving.  My wife got a good job for us, and baby is growing, healthy, so I'm pretty happy."

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