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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
SHREWSBURY - The local American Youth Football association has been placed on probation and one of its coaches suspended after a 10-year-old player was put back in a game after an EMT said the injured player should stay sidelined.
Parents were notified Tuesday that the Shrewsbury Patriot's Fifth Grade team coach, James G. Ellis, a Worcester personal injury lawyer, was suspended for four games until Oct. 9, for "re-entering an injured player ruled out by the EMT …" in a game against a Leominster team at Oak Middle School on Sept. 9.
In addition, the entire Shrewsbury American Youth Football association was placed on probation Thursday for the remainder of the season because of the incident.
Paul Dauderis, president of the Central Massachusetts Youth Football and Cheer Conference (CMYFCC), said a second investigation that concluded Thursday morning found that the town league did not have a protocol in place to ensure EMT/coach communications about injured players.
"They were found to not have the right protocol in place," Mr. Dauderis said. "The next time a violation occurs, this would be considered the first offense." He said the penalty for a second offense, depending on the violation could range from an additional four games suspension for someone in the program up to a permanent ban of the league.
Mr. Ellis, in an email sent to CMYFCC which he forwarded to the Telegram & Gazette, said he was never told by the EMT that the boy could not return to the game. He said that during the fourth quarter, he approached the boy after he went down on the field with an injury and asked him what was hurt. He said the child said his head hurt and that someone had stepped on his leg.
Mr. Ellis said the EMT, who was contracted to be at the game, got the boy to his feet and walked with him to the bench for evaluation, and he went back to coaching. Near the end of the game, the boy approached him with his helmet on and mouth piece in place and said he was ready to go back into the game. The coach said the boy told him he had been cleared to go back into the game and that he felt good.
Shortly after he was back in the game, Mr. Ellis said a referee told him that the boy had been removed from the game by the EMT.
Mr. Ellis said after the game, he approached the EMT, who told him that he was sorry that he had forgotten to inform him of his decision to remove the player from the game.
"The head coach should have absolutely checked with the EMT before re-submitting the player to the game," Mr. Dauderis said.
He confirmed Mr. Ellis' account that Ryan Soldo, president of the Shrewsbury Patriots American Youth Football, was with him when he spoke to the EMT. Mr. Ellis said Mr. Soldo told him that he had done nothing wrong.
Mr. Dauderis said after the child was evaluated by the EMT, he told the player, his mother and Mr. Soldo that the player could not return to the game. Mr. Soldo gave the boy's helmet to the mother and told her he could not go back in.
"I can not comment on why he (Mr. Soldo) did not tell the coach," Mr. Dauderis said.
Mr. Soldo declined to comment. He referred questions to Mr. Dauderis.
Mr. Dauderis said the mother, in a written statement to the Shrewsbury association and to the CMYFCC, said she must have misunderstood what Mr. Soldo told her.
"There was only one minute and 23 seconds left in the game so I thought that's why you said he had to sit out," Mr. Dauderis said the mother said.
"She (the mother) would have been the one to give (the helmet) back to him. Ryan (Soldo) left the bench area," Mr. Dauderis said.
Isabela Santiago said she did not realize her son, Tyler, could not return to playing until the EMT stopped the game and had him removed from the game.
"The EMT never once approached any of the coaches nor myself and said Tyler is no longer allowed to go back … that he was hurt," Ms. Santiago said. "The game ended. We celebrated the victory. We went home. Tyler is fine."
She said she took Tyler to a doctor as required by American Youth Football when a concussion is suspected.
"I have no paperwork stating he has a concussion. He can return to play Monday (Sept. 18)," she said.
Ms. Santiago said she was "devastated" when she heard that Mr. Ellis had been suspended. "I feel terribly sorry for him," she said. "He's an amazing coach. He's been coaching my son the past three years. You couldn't ask for a better coach."
She said she suspects that the suspension is the result of complaints from coaches from the Leominster team, a key rival. She said that Tyler is her third son to play for the local youth football association.
"Tyler is a big kid. He plays every (position). They were mad because he got put back in the game," she said.
Mr. Dauderis said in addition to the coach's suspension and the league being placed on probation, as of Thursday, there is now a standardized and memorialized protocol for EMT and head coach communication. He said before this incident, the protocol varied among the 33 associations in about 60 towns that the CMFCC oversees.
"Since this event, we have told all our associations that the head coach is to check with the EMT that the player is cleared after each and every injury," he said.
EMTs now are also required to cross the name of any player ruled out off the minimum play sheet, note the time of the game, type of injury and sign the sheet, Mr. Dauderis said.
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