By Andy Sheehan

Follow KDKA-TV: Facebook | Twitter

UPPER ST. CLAIR (KDKA) — In the words of his father, No. 21 plays like a bull and wears his bruises like badges, but in his young life, Upper St. Clair running back and linebacker Antonio Orsini has already suffered three concussions.

His father, John Orsini, has seen enough.

“I can’t stand watching him play anymore. It’s hard on me, ’cause he’s in danger,” says John.

Fear that his son will suffer permanent brain damage and diminished mental capacity has driven John to extraordinary lengths to the keep Antonio from playing the game he loves.

“My heart breaks. I don’t want to stop him from playing football, I have to. And it’s to the point now, it’s become a big fight,” he says.

What was once a private matter has become a high-profile court fight with John squaring off against his ex-wife, Janice, and Antonio’s football career hanging in the balance.

John contends that after these concussions and sub-concussive hits, medical research shows that Antonio would be in grave danger if he continues to play football.

“I’m trying to save his future. I’m trying to save his life,” he said of his son.

Last summer, John successfully petitioned the school to ban Antonio from playing, but Janice took the matter to family court and prevailed in having Antonio reinstated on the team roster last season.

While neither Janice nor her attorney would speak on camera, they sent KDKA’s Andy Sheehan a statement, saying the health, safety and well-being of her son are paramount, and noting that Antonio had been clear to play by his doctor at Allegheny General Hospital.

“The mother and her 17-year-old son have reasonably relied upon the input and opinions of his treating physicians and medical providers, and have considered the state mandated safety and concussion protocols followed by the school district, in deciding whether it was appropriate for him to continue to participate in football.”

At issue now is whether Antonio will be permitted to play next season, but with joint legal custody, John, who is a former lawyer, believes he’ll convince the court to stop that from happening.

“If you have a significant indication that the child is being placed in harm’s way, and it’s brought to court to protect the child, it’s the court obligation to do so,” said John.

The fight has become so divisive in the Orsini family that Antonio and his two brothers are no longer on speaking terms with their father.

“I’m hopeful that my son will just go on, get a good education and lead a healthy life. That’s all I want,” John said.

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Get The All New CBS Local App
KDKA Weather App
CBS All Access

Watch & Listen LIVE