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Athletic trainers and emergency personnel know that when a player suffers a neck injury, the best thing to do is immobilize the neck first.
That knowledge may have saved the life of Roane County High School sophomore Seth Haynes Friday night.
Haynes suffered a broken neck during the game at Sequoyah High School in Monroe County.
He has since gone through successful surgery at University of Tennessee Medical Center.
While the injury is career-ending in terms of football, things could have been a lot worse.
Haynes was on the kickoff team when the injury happened.
“It was on the opening kickoff. He was the first one down there, and the kid turned toward him,” Kingston head coach Brian Pankey said. “It was actually a pretty good form tackle. He has his head up and hit him with his shoulder in the hip. When I looked at the film, though, you could tell that he hit him where the shoulder and neck come together.
“The doctor at the hospital said that if the workers had moved him around or if somebody had tried to help him up that there was a good chance he would have died. He shattered his No. 3 vertebrate and chipped or fractured his fourth. His surgery lasted more than five hours Saturday evening, but it went well, according to his doctor.
“He’ll probably have to stay at the hospital a few days, and he’s got a long recovery in front of him, but it sounds like he’ll be OK down the road,” Pankey added. “It could have been a lot worse.”
When Haynes left the field Friday, he had feeling in all his extremities, so his team’s coaches and players were shocked to learn the severity of the injury later that night.
“It’s not been a good season for the Yellow Jackets, and adding this on top of everything is very tough,” Pankey said. “The coaches and a lot of his teammates have come up to see him, but morale is down right now for us.
“Nobody loves the game more than me, but seeing a kid go down with an injury like this puts things in perspective,” Pankey said. “Football is only a small part of these kids’ lives, and to see Seth make it through this with no paralysis is a true blessing. Football just doesn’t seem important right now.”
Even so, the Yellow Jackets, who do not have a win this season, do have a game to play Friday night against Sweetwater.
Pankey hopes his team will be able to focus on the homecoming game.
“We’ll try to have as normal a week as possible,” Pankey said. “Teenagers and adults work better when they have a routine, and we’ll try to do things the way we always do, although our thoughts and prayers will be with Seth.”
Some things will be a little different Friday.
“We’re going to paint the No. 10 on the ‘K’ in the middle of the field, and we’re going to order some No. 10 decals for our helmets,” he said. “Seth is a big part of this football team. I talked with him, and he wants us to beat Sweetwater on homecoming.
“Sweetwater is also going to wear decals on their helmets honoring Seth, and both teams are going to get together and pray for him before the game.”
A fund has been set up at Citizens National Bank in Kingston to help the Haynes family pay for costs relating to his care.
Students and faculty at Roane County High School also helped raise money for Haynes Tuesday morning with a benefit walk from the Gravel Pit to the Hwy. 58 Landing.
About 700 students participated in the walk.