Minnesota football player has to have part of skull removed following harrowing on-field incident

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A high school football player in Minnesota is hospitalized in critical condition after a scary in-game collision left him requiring emergency surgery that removed part of his skull.

Luke Nelson had to have part of his skull removed following a scary on-field incident — Nelson family photo
Luke Nelson had to have part of his skull removed following a scary on-field incident — Nelson family photo

As reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other sources, Dassel-Cokato (Minn.) High junior football player Luke Nelson was forced to undergo an emergency three-hour surgery that removed part of his skull as an attempt to allow swelling on his brain to heal. The linebacker had suffered the injury during the course of his team's game on Friday night against Orono (Minn.) High.

"There wasn't one particular play where this happened," said Sara Nelson, the teenager's mother, told the local media in a news conference Sunday. "We think there might have been a head-on-head or knee-on-head collision, and a couple of plays later we saw him stumbling around, very disoriented."

While there has not been a comprehensive review of all video footage to determine precisely what may have caused the linebacker's injury, Orono coach Chris Weiland recalled one play to the Star Tribune that he felt may have had a major impact.

"He had a pretty big collision with one of our running backs that buckled him," Weiland said. "Our running back was high-stepping, and it looked like it was more a thigh to the helmet."

The teen reportedly collapsed shortly after the moment his mother described above, vomiting and convulsing on the field. He was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center and the emergency surgical procedure, which came just hours after he arrived at the hospital, appears to have saved the teen's life, according to his grateful mother.

Nelson's father, Greg Nelson, said that his son had suffered a concussion during his freshman season but that he had recovered from the incident, passed concussion tests and then competed throughout his sophomore season without incident.

Now, the elder Nelson said that his attitude toward concussion prevention had changed drastically.

"I'm one of those dads that have always been 'You got to get out there and play, tough it out, whatever," he said. "(Now), I would tell these kids if your head hurts, you have to back off, admit it. There's a whole lot more of life than just winning that game Friday night. We need to get kids to understand that. I was one of those dads that wasn't really willing to go that route but I've seen the other side now."

For now, the Nelson family will be more preoccupied with ensuring that their son emerges from this terrifying incident healthy and able to live his life, regardless of football.

Want more on the best stories in high school sports? Connect with Prep Rally on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

What to Read Next