Serious injury halts Southern Lee junior varsity football game; player airlifted to hospital

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Friday, September 15, 2023
Serious injury halts JV football game; player airlifted to hospital
A Southern Lee junior varsity football player had to be airlifted to the hospital after being injured during a kickoff.

SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- A junior varsity football player had to be airlifted to the hospital after being injured during a kickoff.

It happened Thursday night in the game between Richmond Senior High School and Southern Lee High School.

With Richmond leading 41-12 and about three minutes left in the game, Southern Lee lined up for a kickoff. The kicker booted it down to near the 20 yard line, Richmond caught it cleanly and began to return it.

At around the 30 yard line, a group of players from both teams collided and tackled the ball carrier. All of the players get up and jog to their respective sidelines, except for one of the Southern Lee players who is unable to get up.

Medical crews rush to his side and begin to evaluate him.

EMS was called and "as a precaution, the student was taken by helicopter to the hospital for evaluation," according to a statement from Lee County Schools.

The player's current condition has not been released.

Both teams agreed to end the game after the injury.

"We are praying for the quick recovery of our student athlete and have been in regular contact with his family to offer our support," Lee County Schools' statement read.

According to the broadcast crew at the game, it took EMS about 13 minutes to arrive on-scene. Lee County Schools does not have a policy which requires EMS on site for football games.

Triangle medical personnel were unable to comment specifically to this case, though spoke generally about emergency response protocols.

"The basics of emergencies are just making sure the ABC's - the Airway, Breathing, and Circulation, those types of things. Most of the time that starts with a question, and if you can get a response you feel pretty good about them being conscious -- having circulation, airway and breathing. If you don't, and you have an unconscious athlete, that's typically when you're going to start the emergency action plan," said Michael Essa, who is the Sports Medicine Clinical Coordinator at Duke Raleigh Hospital.

Emergency Action Plans are venue-specific, and required by state law as part of Gfeller-Waller Concussion Act. It includes emergency numbers, emergency access to facilities, evacuation routes, and other pertinent information to aid emergency response. A district spokesperson tells ABC11 that it is practice to review the plan with both head coaches, the athletic trainer/first responder on site, and game officials prior to each game.

"I'm going to assess that airway, I'm going to assess how they're breathing. I'm going to open up conversation with them, 'tell me what happened, how are you?' Any questions just to see if they're responding to me and how that is. And then my next steps if I don't get responses is I'm quickly doing stabilization, and I'm getting ready for the disability assessment," said Dr. Ryan Lamb, an Emergency Physician at UNC Health Rex in Raleigh, who also serves as a team physician for the Carolina Hurricanes.

"If they're not conscious to answer a question, you have to assume potential for spinal cord injury, because they can't be assessed for voluntary movement," explained Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine.