Katie Kinder figured the serious head injury that recently happened to her son, Kaneland sophomore Tristan Kinder, was a freak accident. Then she read about a similarly traumatic injury to Marmion track and field throws assistant coach Eddie DeGeeter, and she no longer was so sure.
Tristan Kinder was pelted by an off-target discus while waiting for his turn to throw during the Northern Illinois Big 12 boys track and field meet May 17 at Kaneland.
Less than a week later, DeGeeter took a stray shot put to his head in another disastrous accident that drew more media attention than what happened to Tristan Kinder, a JV thrower and Kaneland sophomore from Sugar Grove.
“In a six-day time span to have two very serious accidents, I was like, ‘This is not good,’ ” Katie Kinder said. “I wanted my kid to be in track because I thought it was a safe sport. Silly me.”
DeGeeter was hospitalized after his head injury occurred at Friday’s sectional meet in Elgin. Doctors expect a full recovery, Cadets head coach Dan Thorpe said, but DeGeeter’s injuries required treatment in the intensive care unit at Presence Saint Joseph Hospital.
Tristan Kinder, meanwhile, faces reconstructive surgery Thursday at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, in which a fake bone will be put under Tristan Kinder’s eye and a titanium plate inserted in his cheek, according to his mother.
According to an incident report from Kaneland, the accident happened as “Tristan was waiting behind the safety net to throw some warm-up throws in the discus ring. Another athlete threw his discus toward/into the netting. The discus struck the metal pole, took an odd bounce, ricocheted back into the netting and struck Tristan in the face.”
Katie Kinder was in the stands as the harrowing scene unfolded.
“He was unconscious for about a minute and when he regained consciousness, he was very calm, and pretty quickly I knew he was OK at the moment, but the ambulance got there right away and they were very concerned there could be a lot more going on [internally], so then of course I went back into panic mode,” Katie Kinder said. “So I’d say not until we got [a] CT scan back were we confident there wasn’t bleeding on his brain or internal bleeding or anything.”
Katie Kinder said the bruising and swelling is subsiding in her son’s right eye, and his vision has returned. Tristan Kinder, also a football player at Kaneland, likely will have to avoid contact sports for at least four to six weeks after surgery.
While dealing with her son’s ordeal has been front-and-center – a stream of medical appointments and Tristan Kinder’s upcoming surgery have complicated the end of his school year, not to mention tending to her son’s physical and emotional welfare – Katie Kinder also has found herself wondering about the big picture of throwing-related injuries in track and field.
She doesn’t consider the setup for throwing events at Kaneland to be different than most other track venues she’s attended, but that’s not necessarily a source of comfort.
“I looked it up and there were quite a few cases [nationally] but who knows how many aren’t in the paper, how many aren’t online, that are happening, and then for it to literally happen [less than a week later] for a school we compete with, I was like, ‘Maybe this isn’t as rare as we all think it is,’ ” Katie Kinder said.
She said she’d like to see better markings near the safety net area where her son was injured and possible changes to the spacial configuration of the waiting area.
“You can’t change the world by yourself,” Katie Kinder said. “A lot of times if people are aware of things, I think things get changed a little faster, so that’s my hope.”
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.