Little Chute Wrestler rebounds after potentially dangerous neck injury
03 / 17 / 2008
Maria Nelson, Media Relations
Affinity Health System
(920) 554-0686 (pager)
LITTLE CHUTE, Wis.-Andy Miller, 17, is no stranger to pain. As a student athlete who competes in wrestling and rugby, he’s seen his fair share of injuries. Most of the time he can play through the pain, but this past wrestling season Miller needed immediate medical assistance.
“I was about a minute into a wrestling match when the other wrestler picked me up and dropped me on my head,” says Miller. “I felt a crack and heard a pop.”
Miller lost the match and walked off the mat. As soon has he reached the sidelines, he collapsed. “I was in a lot of pain and I basically collapsed into my coaches,” he says.
Luckily for Miller, Little Chute High School had Hayley Wallace, licensed athletic trainer from Affinity Health System, available during the wrestling match.
“As soon as Andy went down, I ran over to him,” says Wallace. “Anytime an athlete has trauma to the head or neck or complains of pain directly over the spine, my first priority is to stabilize his neck.”
Wallace’s quick action prevented any further damage to Miller’s neck and spine. She held Miller’s head in her hands until the paramedics arrived.
“I tried to keep Andy calm and still until helped arrived,” says Wallace. “We didn’t know the extent of the injuries, so we were being very cautious.”
“All I could think was I didn’t want this to end my season,” says Miller.
Miller sustained a sprained neck, strained muscles and a stinger involving the nerves in his neck. After some rest, he was back on the mat within two weeks.
“It was amazing to see Andy come back,” says Wallace. “He won his first tournament after the injury and went on to state sectionals.”
Though a little more cautious, Miller says he was really confident getting back on the mat. “I was worried that it would hurt, but I just visualized the match and went from there,” he says.
Spinal cord injuries are not very common in high school sports, but they can happen. “A trainer may never see a spinal injury, but this is my third,” Wallace says. “It’s more common with football players, hockey players and wrestlers.”
Wallace is part of a team of athletic trainers Affinity provides to area high schools, colleges and sports leagues during competitions and practice. The trainers provide athletes with information on nutrition, strengthening and injury prevention and treatment. Most athletes may just stop in to chat.
“My teammates and I usually come in [the training room] just to talk about whatever,” says Miller.
“It’s really important that I foster a relationship with all of my athletes,” says Wallace. “They need to know they can trust me with their concerns no matter what the issue, both on and off the field.”
If an athlete needs special medical attention, Wallace reaches out to her colleagues at Affinity. “We work with the orthopaedic staff at
Often a physician will come to the high school to clear student athletes for competition and practice. The connection with the athletic trainer keeps both the students and the physicians informed about any issues.
“I have a great team,” says Wallace. “They step up when I need them and they truly understand the athlete just wants to play.”
As for Miller, he’s getting ready for the spring sports season. “I’m thinking about rugby now,” he says. “I’m having some knee issues, so I’ll meet with Hayley to discuss it and we’ll see what happens.”
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For the Editor:
Affinity Health System, a faith-based regional health care network, is the Fox Valley’s second-largest employer, according to the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry. For the fourth consecutive year, Affinity has been named one of the nation’s top 64 health systems based on clinical performance according to Thomson Reuters, a leading provider of information and solutions to improve the cost and quality of health care. For ten consecutive years, Affinity Health System has been named to the SDI (formerly Verispan) Integrated Health Network Top 100, an annual assessment of the 100 most highly integrated health care networks in the nation. Both St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh rank among the top 1 percent of hospitals nationwide in terms of quality and efficiency, as determined by the 2007 Premier | CareScience Select practice National Quality Award. Members of Affinity include Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Health Foundation, Oshkosh; St. Elizabeth Hospital and the St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, Appleton; Affinity Medical Group, a regional network of 25 family practice and specialty clinics – 22 of which are recognized as NCQA Level III medical homes, the highest level of recognition – in 14 communities; Calumet Medical Center, Chilton; and Affinity Occupational Health.