This past week I had the privilege of sitting down with Samantha Villa to talk about October 14, 2011. For those of you who do not know, Samantha was working a high school football game versus Carlsbad High School as the athletic trainer for La Costa Canyon High School that night. The game was a typical high school football game when Sam Casinelli went to make a tackle on an opposing player and ended up face down on the field.
One… Two… Three… and Sam has not tried to get up. At this point Samantha ran out onto the field along with her team physicians to assess the situation. Sam was conscious and complaining of neck pain, but was able to wiggle his fingers and toes. He did admit to having numbness and tingling in both arms at the time of the hit. Given this information, Samantha made the decision to spineboard Sam. An ambulance was called during this time, since there wasn’t one on site and he was transported to the nearest trauma center.
At the hospital Sam’s x-ray revealed two fractured vertebrae in his neck. Shortly, thereafter more testing showed damage to ligaments that stabilize the vertebrae as well, leading to surgery to repair this damage. Sam was in the hospital for about a week and out of school for about 11 weeks. Sam went through a rigorous rehabilitation process, but did not require a halo brace during his recovery.
During this time, Sam and the family expressed their thanks to Samantha Villa as the athletic trainer and all the other health professionals involved in Sam’s treatment and recovery. Neurosurgeon Sanjay Ghosh, M.D. wrote the following in a letter to La Costa High School and those involved in Sam’s care with the permission of the family:
“It is my opinion that if Sam had suffered at most 10lbs more of force during his injury, this would have rendered him permanently partially quadriplegic. Furthermore, if it were not for the great attention to detail of the first responders in the field, I am quite certain that we would have had the same catastrophic result. You and your staff are to be commended for attending to him in such a manner and recognizing the serious nature of his injury, as your care and attention clearly had a profound impact on this young man’s life.”
At the time of his injury, Sam was a junior at La Costa High School. He is now a thriving senior there who no longer plays football, but continues to be a key member of the school’s baseball team. In fact, Sam was able to play baseball last spring (2012), just several months after his injury. Sam was also a student-coach as a member of the football team this past fall, giving him the opportunity to continue to support his teammates. For her part, the California Athletic Trainers’ Association (CATA) recognized athletic trainer Samantha Villa for her actions that evening with the Save A Life Award. Her colleague Christina Scherr, who is also an athletic trainer in the San Dieguito UHSD nominated her.
If you would like to see more regarding Sam’s injury check THIS out.
If you know Samantha take the time this March to thank her for being an athletic trainer, after all it is National Athletic Training Month. If Samantha isn’t your athletic trainer, but you have one at your high school, be sure to take the time to thank him or her, you never know when he or she may be the one to save your life.
Submitted by Heather L. Clemons, MS, MBA, ATC