Hunter VeltKamp didn’t see his opponent coming.
Tackled from behind on the football field of Central Montcalm High School, the sophomore quarterback fell forward, his face guard forcing his head to turn sharply sideways.
“I’m all right, I’m all right,” he insisted when the team athletic trainer, Katlyn Saunders, ran across the field to check on him.
She moved his shoulder pad aside and ran her fingers expertly and cautiously across the young man’s collarbone.
“I knew something wasn’t right,” Saunders said. “He popped right back up and wanted to get back in the game, but I could feel the bones protruding under his shoulder pad. His clavicle was broken.”
When Saunders told Hunter he would have to come out of the game, the first game of the season, his face fell. The teenager insisted he was fine and that he could get back on the field, but Saunders shook her head.
In the stands, Hunter’s mom, Stacy VeltKamp, was watching with a mother’s sharp eye.
“He was running on adrenalin,” she said. “He didn’t realize the significance of the injury, but Katlyn brought him over to us, his parents, and we headed straight for the Spectrum Health Kelsey Hospital Emergency Department.”
At the emergency department, the diagnosis confirmed the one Saunders had made on the field. Hunter’s clavicle was broken in three places. He was sent home for the night, with orders to contact a physician first thing in the morning.
“By then, the adrenalin rush was over, and Hunter was in real pain,” VeltKamp said.
“It hurt, a lot,” Hunter recalled, “but what really hurt was that after working so hard training all summer, I couldn’t play anymore. On the way to the hospital, I took my shirt off and saw how really horrid the injury was.”
The next morning, the phone rang early in the VeltKamp household.
“It was about 7:45 in the morning, and we got a call from Spectrum Health to bring Hunter in right away,” VeltKamp said. “I was really impressed. We learned Katlyn, our athletic trainer, had contacted the physician (with) the X-rays from the night before.”
“I contacted my manager, Phil Adler, and Dr. Hamilton, the orthopedic sports surgeon, and we had a group meeting online about Hunter,” Saunders said.
Phillip Adler, MA, ATC, manager of the Spectrum Health Sports Medicine program, and Kendall Hamilton, MD, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist as well as team physician for the Central Montcalm High School football team, were in agreement: Hunter needed surgery and he needed it as soon as possible.
“Katlyn made the right call on the field—Hunter got immediate triage and an outstanding diagnosis,” Dr. Hamilton said. “When Hunter came in that morning, the bone had pierced through the muscle and was millimeters away from breaking through the skin. Had it broken through, the risk for infection would have increased greatly, and healing would not have gone as smoothly.”
Hunter’s injury happened late on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend, and he saw Dr. Hamilton early that Friday. It took several calls to find an open slot for Hunter’s surgery at such a busy time, but Dr. Hamilton made the calls and scheduled his surgery for the same day.
“We had him in surgery 18 hours after his injury,” Adler said. “Our goal is to provide the same level of care for our community partners as we would a professional athlete. Situations like these are the reason we place athletic trainers in the community – to provide outstanding acute care, management and education to parents and athletes about their options after injury.
“All of our athletic trainers have a direct connection to a team physician for collaboration and guidance to offer the best medical care and advice. In this case, Katlyn was awesome at recognizing something more than a simple fracture had taken place. She reached out to her resources on behalf of the athlete and parents to make sure that Hunter’s injury didn’t wait until after the holiday weekend.”
Hunter’s parents took him to Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital, where Dr. Hamilton performed his surgery and repaired the broken bone. Hunter was able to go home the same day.
“Everyone was so nice,” Hunter said with a grin. “Got in, got out, and didn’t even have to spend the night at the hospital.”
“Katlyn called us while Hunter was in surgery to ask about him,” VeltKamp said. “It all went smoothly. Dr. Hamilton isn’t just a surgeon – he specializes in sports medicine. He could relate to what our son was going through. And if we hadn’t had a trainer at school, this might not have gone nearly as well. Every school should have an athletic trainer present.”
Although disappointed to not be able to play for the rest of the season, Hunter has remained involved with his team, working alongside his coach to advise his teammates and encourage more wins.
“I’ve been working hard on physical therapy, and Katlyn has helped me a lot, too, at school. I’ve got full range of motion again,” Hunter said. “I can’t wait for the winter season to begin. I’m ready!”