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Totino-Grace midfielder back on pitch after brain trauma

09/23/2017, 3:54pm CDT
By MATTHEW DAVIS, Special to the Star Tribune

A year ago, Luke Lindsay suffered a serious head injury on the soccer field when he collided with teammate.


Luke Lindsay.

Luke Lindsay missed time with an ankle injury earlier this month but when it comes to the big picture, it didn’t bother him too much.

A year ago the Totino-Grace senior midfielder suffered a serious head injury on the soccer field. He collided with teammate Jack Vettel on a routine play at midfield in a game against Andover on Sept. 22, 2016.

“When I knew he was laying there [on the field], it wasn’t going to end well,” Vettel said.

Lindsay fractured his skull and suffered an epidural hematoma. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital for emergency surgery. Treatment went successfully as Lindsay had titanium plates placed in his skull.

Lindsay said he realized “that could have been my last day” and considers it a “come to Jesus moment.” He also keeps in mind a quote from Rachel Woell, a Totino-Grace student who died of brain cancer in 2014: “Every day is a gift.”

Less than a year later, he has returned to the soccer field for the Eagles, who started the season with an 8-0 record. He doesn’t have eye-popping stats — three assists last year and a goal this fall — but causes trouble on defense and sets up the offense. He earned all-conference honors last year.

“It made me a lot more grateful for every minute that I get to spend on the field,” Lindsay said.

Eagles’ coach Bill Vance said it has helped everyone not take things for granted. He said it’s important for his team to “enjoy the moment” as the season goes whether a practice or a midseason game.

It helps with the Eagles’ high expectations, including a run to the state tournament. Totino-Grace fell short last year with a 1-0 second-round loss to Columbia Heights in the Class 1A, Section 5 tournament.

Lindsay, meanwhile, worked his way back to school and the soccer field. He resumed full-time attendance at the Fridley-based Catholic school within three weeks of the injury.

“Just a lot of rest — keeping myself out of high-stimulus areas [and] not putting myself in dangerous situations where I could get hit in the head again,” Lindsay said about the recovery process.

He returned to playing indoor club soccer early in 2017 with Sporting St. Croix Academy. He said he also has been cleared by his doctor to head the ball again.

“My teammates were there for me to help me get back,” Lindsay said.

Vettel, a senior defender, said the weeks after the collision were challenging for him. He and Lindsay have been longtime friends since attending grade school together at St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park.

This fall, Vettel and Lindsay have helped the Eagles shut out five of their first seven opponents.

Lindsay injured his ankle Sept. 14 in a 3-0 victory against Andover. With him out, Totino-Grace’s deep and talented squad defeated Champlin Park 4-1 four days later. The Eagles have won all but one game by three or more goals.

Junior forward Herbert Endeley leads the team offensively with 11 goals and eight assists. Sophomore forward Steevenson Lamarre, a Division I prospect, has eight goals and four assists. Junior goalkeeper Philip Ronza has been stingy in net. He has allowed 0.54 goals per game with 32 saves.

Totino-Grace’s players will be tested. In addition to playing solid Class 2A teams in the Northwest Suburban Conference, the Eagles have Blake (7-0-2) and 2015 state runner-up Breck (5-5-1) in Class 1A, Section 5.

“It’s like a little state tournament with the quality of teams in it,” Lindsay said.

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Tag(s): Featured  Star Tribune  Blake  Breck  Northwest Suburban  Andover  Champlin Park  Totino-Grace  Columbia Heights  Fridley  Northwest Suburban