PUEBLO – It was Friday night football: A big matchup between Palmer Ridge and Pueblo East. But the matchup–or rather, one particular moment–between their two freshman teams, is what social media is still talking about.
“We just had to pray for the best scenario,” said Pueblo East Freshman football player Isaac Herrera.
Palmer Ridge and Pueblo East freshmen football players were pictured kneeling together and praying for a freshman player, who had just been injured and loaded into an ambulance.
Herrara watched the play from the sideline, telling News5 his teammate went down during a tackle and told paramedics he felt a “pop” in his neck.
“He just laid down on the floor, and then the EMT’s came,” Herrara recalled.
The student-athlete was taken to a nearby hospital and released the same night.
He returned to school on Monday but is not cleared to play football yet.
Activities Director Elly Naill is now helping to oversee his concussion protocol, which was adopted by District 60, District 70, and CSU-Pueblo back in 2012.
Naill worked closely with Dr. Rocky Kohsla during that time, while he created the “Concussion Management Program,” which was unique to Pueblo.
“The days of having a concussion and just calling it ‘my bell got rung’ are gone–thank goodness,” Dr. Kohsla told News5.
Dr. Kohsla says roughly 600 students have gone through the protocol since 2012.
A medical professional must find a student to be both mentally and neurologically stable.
And then, there is a graduated “return to activity,” which is an eight-part plan that the student must complete before returning to an actual game.
Dr. Kohsla admits at first, some coaches felt the protocol was overkill–fearing it would unnecessarily cost them wins during the season.
In recent years, though, he says that perception is changing.
“It’s been gratifying to see that that didn’t happen. CSU-Pueblo won the Division 2 National Championship in 2014. East has won. South has won. So I think they’ve experienced that we can be careful and make it safer–and yet, not be in the way of things.”
“Can we say that what we’ve done is going to prevent bad things from happening? We can’t. I hope that we’ve decreased the chance of catastrophic injury,” he added.
That’s what mattered most to the Palmer Ridge and Pueblo East freshman teams last Friday.
Tied at 28 in the 4th quarter, they decided to call the game a draw.
“We had momentum to win,” said Herrara.
“We had to just call it, because it took so long for him to get up.”
That’s not something outlined in the district’s protocol. This was a decision that, instead, came from the heart.
“It’s about the sportsmanship that counts with us. It’s not all about winning. It’s about the safety of one of our brothers,” said Herrera.
“Ultimately you want your students to be compassionate and kind. And really, that was just assurance that we’re teaching our kids the right things,” said Naill, with a smile on her face.
The Eagles are wishing their teammate a speedy, but safe, recovery–and hope he’ll return in time for the Cannon Game vs. Pueblo South.