Football: Erie’s Abfalter on road to recovery after severe concussion

It was a nightmare times two. But it appears a dual happy ending is on the way.

In Week 3 of the football season, two large-scale injuries occurred in the same game — the type of injuries that have players down on one knee and a bevy of medical personnel summoned to the field.

Erie senior lineman Ryan Abfalter endured a severe concussion after a crack-back block, mere moments after D’Evelyn sophomore Josh Riggs suffered Grade 4 lacerations to his spleen and kidney after a hit by Erie linebacker Elijah Roper.

Abfalter and Riggs each had a lengthy hospital stay, but each is on the road to recovery. Abfalter, despite some reservations from his coaches and parents (but none from doctors), returned for Erie’s final two games.

“I got to play two more games for my senior year, but it’s a bummer that I had to miss out on all of those rivalry games,” Abfalter said.

Abfalter played sparingly in the Tigers’ Week 9 contest against Roosevelt but was full-go for the finale against Niwot. Things went smoothly on the field as he lined up and played on both sides of the ball without incident. But he is still experiencing mild symptoms that go along with long-term recovery from a severe concussion.

“There are a few headaches and just some memory stuff,” he said. “It’s just little stuff around the house, little details that I’ll forget. It’s usually just dates, or when I’ll walk in a room, sometimes I’ll forget why I walked in there.”

Doctors told Abfalter that those symptoms are typical and usually clear up within a year. They also insisted he was cleared from a football perspective, in no more danger than anyone else for a reoccurrence. Although he was met with some resistance from those close to him, Abfalter wasn’t about to miss the final two games of his senior season.

Currently, he is weighing whether to enroll at Colorado State next season or join the Marines.

As far as the Sept. 13 incident itself, Abfalter said: “It’s weird because now I remember the beginning of that play, but I don’t remember anything else. I saw myself fall down, which was really weird. And then I don’t remember anything until I was in the hospital.”

Abfalter remained in St. Anthony’s hospital for four days.

In a contest Erie won 10-7, Riggs was injured five plays earlier. Roper was ejected because of the targeting rule and also was required to miss the following game.

Riggs, a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and baseball, is recuperating and will be cleared to return to the basketball floor after break. According to D’Evelyn coach Jeremy Bennett, Riggs will be fit with a special undershirt next season and his parents have approved a return to football.

“He’s just now getting cleared to get back to everything, but with your organs they just don’t want to take any chances,” said Bennett, a Centaurus graduate. “He didn’t have to have anything removed, they just said ‘You’re taking an extra long time.’ So yeah, he’s on the mend. He’s good and he gets to compete again at the first of the year.”

Initially, doctors feared that Riggs’ spleen was going to have to be removed, but an ultrasound indicated things were improving and he was able to keep the organ.

“You don’t want it to happen to anybody, but at least he’s a sophomore,” Bennett said. “If he was going to miss a bunch of basketball and the rest of the football season as a senior, that would have really (stunk) for him.”

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