PLATTE COUNTY – Sports injuries are not only a part of athletics, but can alter lives long after the final points are scored.
For two Platte County athletes, severe injuries became a life-changing experience. Sophomore Kendall Schaffner from Wheatland High School suffered a knee injury that prompted major surgery and a loss of her entire freshman season; sophomore Brian McCoid, a broken wrist. Both athletes suffered injuries while playing participating in their sport.
For Guernsey’s McCoid, a wrist broken in two places during their recent state football tournament appearance caused not only an early exit, but also questions as to his return to athletics.
“I saw that he went down and wasn’t getting up, and he was holding his arm,” said his mother, Brandi McCoid. “I knew that it probably was an injury where he was done for the day.”
McCoid who is the varsity basketball coach at Guernsey-Sunrise High School said that she asked coach Curtis Cook if she could go out there and he gave her the green light. In both scenarios with McCoid and Schaffner, both mothers recounted the sinking and sickening feeling in the pit of their stomachs when they witnessed their children in pain.
As parents, most if not all will tell you what it’s like to see a child down in the midst of the crowd and realizing that it’s your son or daughter. They will also tell you that they would change places with them in a heartbeat if they could.
Sports injuries can occur from many different scenarios. In McCoid’s case, he was sure that it was due to a late hit on the play. Whatever the scenario, the student-athlete can recount exactly the moments before, during and after the injury unless they have gone unconscious.
“I was in the shotgun and I threw a little dump pass to Justin (Malcom),” McCoid said. “We had gotten a lot of yards on that play previously, and I can remember throwing it and back peddling because the defense was giving us a heavy rush.”
Both of the rushers not only pushed McCoid, but then landed on top of him.
“I tried to brace myself with my arm, but I just felt it twist,” he said. “I felt the pain right away. I sat up and looked at my arm and then just layed back down.”
According to Brandi McCoid, the ulna was broken at the wrist and was pushed up into the arm.
“I just tried to stay calm, because I knew he was extremely worked up,” she said. “He believed in his heart of hearts that they could beat Meeteetse, and so I told him, ‘we don’t know God’s plan, but for some reason this was the plan for today, and we just have to push through.”
They were close to a good hospital in Cody, and for that the McCoids were thankful.
“I took him,” she said. “We didn’t go in the ambulance and he was so worried about his team and the game that he made me drive by the field to check out the scoreboard before we could get out of town.”
Cody Hospital kept McCoid overnight, and he didn’t rest well that night, not because of the pain of his wrist, but he stayed up watching film of the game and it kept going over in his mind the “what ifs” of the circumstance.
After the initial X-rays, the hospital brought the X-ray machine into his room. They knew from the film that he had broken the wrist in two places, but there was also a problem with his heart that was not a surprise, but has been a monitored condition.
“His heart issues were something they were more concerned about,” she said. “He has what they call SVT, or supraventricular tachycardia, and his heart rate was over 220. Although they didn’t know what caused the spike, the doctor said that it was quite common and treatable and gave him medicine to try and restart his heart.”
So, one injury reveals another and the problem is not a cast on a broken wrist, but keeping a young man from dying.
“The medicine wouldn’t restart it,” she said. “They had to actually shock him. They did this before they ever treated his arm.”
Brian McCoid remembers that as he was coming out of the shocking to his hear, that they were trying also to twist his arm back into place.
“His ulna was broken and his radius was broken,” she said. “He had to have a plate and eight screws and those are permanent.”
Through it all, the mother and son bonded together, encouraging one another, but with any athlete, the inability to wonder about the future weighs heavily on their heart.
“He was of course upset and worried about the loss of the game and so he was devastated on that point because he didn’t want his season to be done,” she said. “And then he was thinking that he was done for basketball. He’s been in the gym since he was about three.”
McCoid’s glass is always half-full and he says that it could have been worse. He also said that injury was not going to stop him from believing that he would be ready to play basketball after Christmas. For McCoid, the rehabilitation is still in the early stages and he has a long road ahead of him.
For Kendall Schaffner who injured herself while playing volleyball, she is an example of an athlete who had a will of iron to rehabilitate and get back to the sport that she loved. Not only did she get back to the court, but led her team back to the state tournament. The Wheatland Bulldogs hadn’t been to state in nine years.
Not only did she help get the team back to state, but then also amassed 46 digs, hit 94% of her serves, produced 11 kills with her thundering spike and had a 98% on serve receive. For those impressive totals she was awarded All-State honors.
From laying in a bed having knee reconstruction to all-state in one year. It must be something in the water as the Platte County athletes seem to be cut from a different cloth.
“I began playing volleyball in the third grade,” she said. “But I’ve been in the gym like, forever.”
In going back to recall the moments of the injury, Schaffner had incredible recollection. It would be her very first high school game, playing varsity as a freshman.
“It was the first game of the season last year,” she said. “I got on the bus and it was all good. In the game, it was the first spike of the game and I came down wrong and hurt my knee.”
Another recollection that was very clear came from Kendall’s mom, Lindsay Schaffner who was not just a parent in the stands, but was the varsity head volleyball coach on the sidelines.
“We were up, 6 to 4, I believe it was and Ken went up to take a swing,” Schaffner said. “As a freshman we started that whole crew as freshmen as well. She was super excited. I remember that morning being really excited as a mom of a freshman that’s going to start here with her first varsity match. She went up and the set was on the other side of her body and she twisted and came down and it was just a freak fall as she landed on her left knee.”
The awkward angle that ensued was described as gruesome and a moment that was recorded on film, but she says that they try to avoid watching it.
“I can still picture her face,” Lindsay said. “Looking at me when she fell and she grabbed her knee and she said ‘it hurts, it hurts,’ and I can still picture that part of it. Just knowing as a mom and coach, the amount of work that she put into her craft; that was hard. Out indefinitely and not knowing what was going on. She brings a sense of confidence to the girls this year that they didn’t have last year.”
“I tore my ACL and meniscus,” Kendall said. “I had to have an ACL repair, so they drilled a hole in my femur which was still attached to the tibia, and then they shoved the ACL into the hole in the femur and tied it off.”
Lindsay said that the type of surgery was done was not a full reconstruction due to her age. The decision to do the surgery in this manner was determined by the Orthopedic of the Rockies in Fort Collins, Colo.
“Her growth plates were still open,” Schaffner said. “And so he said with them being as open as they were, this was the best route. This was a permanent solution. At first the trainer said it wasn’t torn and we’ve had several other trainers tell us the same thing. She actually went to therapy and played on it.”
After being misdiagnosed, initially and before their trip to the orthopedic specialist, she actually played one more game on the injured knee and went down again. With an ACL tear, the pain wasn’t enough to deter her from playing, but after one set she attempted a serve and came down in a heap once again.
After a phone call from the doctor a few days after the MRI was done, they got the phone call and the bad news.
“We brought Kendall in and the whole team and kinda told them,” she said. “There were a lot of tears from the whole team. It was hard. We lost her for the rest of the season.”
Kendall went under the knife at the end of October and went through a surgery that was under two hours. She then faced the long road of rehabilitation and watching her spot on the court occupied by another athlete.
She is not an athlete that has been made to feel sorry for herself, but during her rehabilitation she decided to go through another open door, follow in her mom’s footprints and took on the role of a student coach.
“There were times when she would say, ‘mom are you seeing the hole in rotation one, should we focus on this,’ so I would acknowledge the coaching point and make the adjustment,” Lindsay said.
It was a six-month rehab for Kendall before she was cleared to play again and she worked hard to make sure she would come back even stronger. Not one moment, she said was dedicated to the negative and not once did she ever feel that her career was over.
This year she was back, but with a bit of a handicap in that she is wearing an extensive knee brace that goes from the top of her thigh all the way down to mid-calf. She, although doesn’t consider it a burden and in fact feels that the extra weight will make her even stronger in the coming years.
Athletes wounded in the battle face not only the obstacles of pain from the injury, arduous hours rehabbing but also fighting the fear that comes as every game passes without them in the fray. Wondering if they will ever get healed. Worrying about losing their spot on the team. Wondering what the future holds after taking time off.
Kendall is an athlete with not a lot of extreme highs or extreme lows. She has a quiet confidence that surrounds her and she keeps a level head through the thick and thin of recovery, practice and big games.
Those watching wonder at times what the pep talk inside their heads must be like.
“I just tell myself that I’ve been working for this game since forever,” she said.
A lot of similarities between these two players. One, though has gone through. The other still journeying through the tunnel. Both players are sophomores. They both have coaches for parents. They both love their sports. They both know how to persevere.
Sports injuries whether major or minor prepare student-athletes to face life head on. The moment of agony can be either swallowed up in giving up or getting up. These two Platte County athletes have gotten up and as such, have found not only success, but joy in their journey.