Peabody-Burns football player Chance Elliott came home Monday to continue recovering from a brain injury in Friday’s game that caused him to be airlifted to Wesley Medical Center.
Elliott collapsed after a play near the end of the first quarter, although he was away from the action, USD 398 Superintendent Ron Traxson said.
“Near as we can figure, he sustained the injury some time before he went down,” Traxson said. “Everybody was scratching their heads wondering what happened.”
Peabody EMTs rushed to Elliott’s aid, stabilizing him before taking him off the field on a stretcher.
Coaches, teammates, and those in the crowd were unaware of the seriousness of Chance’s injury as the game resumed.
“You never know when they take them out,” Traxson said. “The next thing I knew, they said they were calling in LifeTeam. At halftime I tried to fill (the coaches) in. They didn’t know they were airlifting him at that point.”
PBHS Principal Ken Parry said players he talked to were concerned.
“His close friends were feeling like ‘I just want to get it over with and find out what is going on,’ Parry said.
Chance was unresponsive for 16 minutes, his mother Annette Elliott wrote in a social media post Monday. She wrote that a breathing tube was inserted prior to the LifeTeam helicopter landing at the practice field at the high school.
After he reached Wesley, doctors determined Chance didn’t have a concussion.
“It’s not a concussion, it’s different, Traxson said. “He received a brain injury. There was some bruising, some bleeding, and some swelling. When they got him in and got it under control, it didn’t progress from there.”
A post by Annette Elliott on Saturday morning described Chance as “upset and confused with a very bad headache, but long term prognosis is good … he’s going to be out of commission for awhile but should eventually be fine.”
The assessment Elliott posted Saturday night reaffirmed the prognosis.
“Chance will make a full recovery, will take some time but as far as we know there will be no long term effects,” she wrote.
To limit overstimulation of Chance’s injury, he was restricted from watching TV, using a cell phone, or listening to music, Elliott wrote. Visitors were not allowed.
“Keeping the kids away has probably been their biggest challenge,” Traxson said.
PBHS Principal Ken Parry said it will continue to be a challenge now that Chance is home.
“The word is no visits,” Parry said. “His mom and I worked it out that some very, very limited visits might be good for him. We’re trying to get his closest friends there for one or two minutes to say ‘Hey, we miss you.’”
Chance’s friends have been spending more time together since his injury, and realize the restrictions are for the best, Parry said.
“His friends have just been awesome,” he said. “You can’t know what they’re going through, but they understand how difficult it is and they’re trying to do what’s right by Chance and by his mom. He wants to see his friends, but he can’t.”
Parry, who also is the schools crisis response coordinator, met with staff before school Monday to give them accurate details about what had happened and how Chance was doing.
“We knew the prognosis was good, so it wasn’t quite as scary,” he said. “When the kids came to school there were a lot of questions. There were also a lot of stories as to what had really happened. We wanted to dispel any rumors the kids might have heard.”
Kids and staff also came with desire to do something to tell Chance they cared.
“There were several big posters some of the girls had made that everybody signed,” Parry said. “There was one from the football team. Some brought cards. Kids that I wouldn’t have imagined being a close friend, but very compassionate letters.”
Some employees gave Parry an envelope with money they had collected for the family.
Coach David Pickens and his assistants reviewed game film multiple times and determined Chance’s injury likely happened several plays before he went down, Parry said.
“They noticed after a specific play he wasn’t quite himself hustling down on a play,” he said. “It’s really lucky he didn’t have more of a problem with a second hit.”
Parry said that he doesn’t expect Chance to be back in school for at least a couple of weeks, which will give teachers time to prepare for adaptations he might need as his injury heals.
“When he comes back, computer use will be the last thing he needs,” Parry said. “We’re just making sure we have our ducks in a row, that we have the resources we need to make him successful. We’re going to let him take it slow and take it as he needs it. It’s about what he can handle.”