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SAN DIEGO — Brian Applegate, once a star athlete and water polo player at Torrey Pines High School, has had to relearn everything after a skateboarding accident in May left him with a severe brain injury,

The 17-year-old spent 5 weeks in a coma and underwent several surgeries. He spends hours in daily rehabilitation, relearning everything from walking, to talking, to basics like catching a ball.

It’s something he, his family and doctors agree could have been prevented had Brian been wearing a helmet.

“You could die if you hit your head when you’re skateboarding,” Brian said. “And it’s just so important to remember.”

Now Brian and his family are on a mission to spread the message that helmets save lives.

“We kind of take it day by day,” said mother, Shannon Applegate. “It was avoidable, and it’s so important that people hopefully hear our story and realize that just wearing a helmet would have made that much difference.”

“This totally helped me…now I have more respect for my life,” Brian said.

Brian will have to continue physical, speech and cognitive therapy for a long time to come.

“With each day, each step and each key stroke, things are looking up. But there is still a long road ahead for this teen that says he’ll continue playing on,” his mother said.

There are mandatory state laws in California that require skateboarders, scooter riders and bicycle riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets.