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Middle school player injured during game, airlifted to CMC

Luke McJunkin and his friends Andrew Trotter (center) and Jacob Riddle (right) after a game last year. McJunkin was injured and knocked unconscious for over 20 minutes during a game Wednesday night.
Luke McJunkin and his friends Andrew Trotter (center) and Jacob Riddle (right) after a game last year. McJunkin was injured and knocked unconscious for over 20 minutes during a game Wednesday night. Contributed photo

A Rock Hill middle school student was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center Main late Wednesday after being injured during a football game in Clover, his mother said.

The Rock Hill school district confirmed that a student was injured at a football game and was airlifted to the hospital.

Julia McJunkin said her son Luke McJunkin, 12, a seventh-grader at Sullivan Middle School, was playing in the football game against Oakridge Middle School Wednesday when he was hit somewhere in his upper torso and knocked unconscious for more than 20 minutes.

Luke McJunkin’s mother, who was unable to attend the game at Clover High School, said Sullivan’s athletic staff informed her of her son’s injury and updated her on his status. She said they told her when he was hit, he fell limp before hitting the ground.

“He was hit really hard,” McJunkin said.

McJunkin said she later met her son and the staff members, including Sullivan Middle’s Athletics Director Adam Hare, at the hospital. McJunkin said Luke, who is 5 feet, two inches tall and weighs 135 pounds, later told her he did not see the other player coming at him.

“He was blindsided,” she said.

McJunkin said her son has been playing football and other sports since he was about 7 years old.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “It’s very rare for a child to be airlifted off of a football field.”

When Luke would not respond on the field, McJunkin said paramedics decided to call in a helicopter.

“The worst was going through my head,” she said. “He was just out for so long.”

Luke woke up as they were loading him into the helicopter but was complaining that his head hurt, McJunkin said. She said the coaching staff and another parent kept her updated as she waited at the hospital.

Doctors diagnosed Luke with a concussion and he is now on bed rest and cannot read, look at his phone or watch TV, McJunkin said.

“I’m thankful that’s all we have to deal with,” she said.

If he is up to it, McJunkin said Luke may be back at school on Monday. She said they will have to monitor Luke for the next few months.

“It worked out, thank God,” she said.

Luke will not return to the football field this season. McJunkin said while she isn’t big on the idea of Luke playing football again, she won’t keep him from something he loves if he decides to return.

“I’m not going to keep him from something he loves to do. I don’t want to take that away from him, but at the same time this is really serious,” McJunkin said.

McJunkin said she does, however, hope to see improvements.

“I hope it’s a wake-up call for everybody because I could have lost my baby last night,” she said. “Football is becoming too violent. There is no reason a 12 year old should be knocked out for 30 minutes on a football field and be airlifted. I just want to bring awareness about it.”

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082

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