TRION, Ga. — Tyler Gill is well on his way to a full recovery a month after lying in a hospital bed for nearly three days following a football practice injury. If not for the quick action of the Trion High School coaching staff, what turned out to be a bruising of the T1 vertebra might have turned into something much more serious.
The sophomore backup quarterback did not get up after being tackled on what coaches and players agree was a routine hit on an option play. Athletic trainer Rachel Trundle was working the Trion softball game on campus against Gordon Lee, so coaches put their emergency action plan to quick work. It's something the staff works on each summer, and it helps that assistant coach Steve Gladney has been an EMT for 20 years.
"When I looked over there, I noticed he wasn't getting up and that's very unusual for Tyler, who usually bounces right back up and gets in the huddle," said Gladney, the team's receivers coach. "He was lethargic, not responding very well, so I put my hand on his facemask and asked him how he was doing. The other coaches checked his PMS -- pulse, motor and sensory.
"He had a good pulse and he could squeeze well, but when we got down to his feet he could move them but he couldn't feel anything when we did the sensory test with a pen. We quickly decided to call 911 because he had progressively gotten worse due to the spinal contusion and what it was doing to his body. He told me he wanted to get up and I said, 'No sir, we're not going to take that chance. It's not about you playing football, it's about you being able to play with your kids down the road.'"
Trundle, the team's trainer for eight years, quickly joined the others and said their quick action, along with the Redmond Hospital EMTs, greatly helped Gill's recovery process. The Redmond EMTs work closely with the Trion staff for just such emergencies. One of the first things they do is to make sure the player is stabilized, which includes leaving the helmet and shoulder pads on.
"The Redmond EMTs are great, and we meet with them at the beginning of the year and do practices working with a spinal-cord injury," Trundle said. "There is a lot of controversy between EMTs and trainers and hospitals on what you should do. Do you take off the helmet and shoulder pads? Should you leave them on? Everybody has heard something different, so it's nice to know that, even if I'm not here, we're going to do it one way because there is a protocol in place.
"When you've got the helmet and shoulder pads on, it holds everything in place. If you remove one of them, it throws the head out of line. If you leave everything on, it's just easier. We do take the facemask off to help with breathing."
Gill, who was walking without aid in a little over a week, is now attending practice, though he won't be cleared for contact this season. For now he's content -- as much as he can be -- to use the rest of the season to get stronger and root for his teammates, who are 3-1 and ranked as one of the top Class A public school teams in the state.
Though he understands there will be a mental barrier to eclipse, Gill already is looking forward to being under center in 2014.
"Hopefully I'm out just this year, because next year I have a real chance to start," he said, a smile spreading across his face. "It will take time to heal and I will get 100 percent recovery, because I'll do everything they ask of me. I want to come back really badly. I've been playing my whole life, and I know it was a freak accident.
"I can't let something like that stop me. I know when I go back out there I'll think about it and I will be worried, but I also know I'll be able to get over it."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...