It was the moment Tyler Carlson, 14, had been waiting for since he started playing football in 3rd grade. The 5 ft.-10, 230-lb. freshman at Northwestern High School was on the field, playing linebacker and running back during his first varsity football game.
As he defended the kickoff against rival Smithville High School, Tyler suffered a blow to the head that sent him reeling.
“We make a wedge formation and this guy was just coming around the corner and we hit head to head,” said Tyler. “Looking back on it now, I think that’s when I got my concussion because I started to get a headache. About 20 plays after that, I started feeling confused, lining up in the wrong places. After lining up wrong about 3 times, our trainer pulled me from the game to check on me.”
The trainer determined Tyler had a concussion. At home that evening, he started to vomit and had trouble swallowing and breathing.
Soon after he arrived at Akron Children’s Hospital, Dr. Maria Christina Victorio, a pediatric neurologist, ordered an MRI of his head and neck.
“When he told me his symptoms, I knew vomiting and neck pain aren’t typical concussion symptoms,” said Dr. Victorio. “I suspected he might had a dissection of a blood vessel in his neck, which caused the clot that led to the stroke. Tyler had a small stroke in the medulla area of his brain. That is the area of the brain that regulates nausea and swallowing, which is why he was experiencing all those symptoms.”
Tyler and his parents were shocked to learn he had experienced a stroke.
“When Dr. Victorio told us I had a stroke. I was like, ‘Stroke? I am too young for a stroke. Only 60 year olds get strokes,’” said Tyler.
Tyler is responding well to treatment and has a good prognosis. And since Dr. Victorio recommends Tyler refrain from contact sports in the future, he’ll be focusing on his other sports – track, basketball and baseball.
The outpouring of support from the West Salem and Smithville communities has meant a lot to the Carlson family.
“There was a very well attended prayer vigil for Tyler on Monday evening, and we appreciate having so many people praying for his recovery,” said Steven, Tyler’s dad. “We’ve received gas cards to help us travel back and forth from West Salem to the hospital. Everyone has been so supportive.”
Tyler also received a football signed by the entire Smithville football team, hand delivered by Smithville teammates Colt Ullman, Jason Schaffter and Noah Schonover.