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Michael's Story
Anna H. Sager, Deerfield, IL

It was September 30, 1998; Yom Kippur, and all the children had the day off from school in our Deerfield , IL, district. Our son, Michael, was nine years old, playing football with his friends in Maplewood Park , which joins our backyard.

This was an informal game of football played in the park with a few neighborhood pals. At one point, Michael did a celebratory chin up on one of the soccer goals, and the unanchored goal toppled onto him, striking him across the mouth. His friend lifted the goal off Michael as he lay on the ground. My son then ran to our house as fast as he could. I was in our kitchen watching from the window. When I saw Michael running, blood was pouring from his mouth. I thought he had been shot by a gun. The bleeding was tremendous. He suffered severe mouth trauma and was taken by ambulance to the emergency room for oral and plastic surgery.

Every day we are aware of how lucky Michael is to have survived. Eight of his front teeth (four upper and four lower) were pushed grossly in different directions, his lower lip was completely bitten through and nearly completely severed, the inside of his mouth required surgical repair as well. Now that braces have corrected his teeth and the surgical repair was successful, we are thankful for his recovery. But our son suffered nightmares and we all felt we had lived through one. This was the worst day of our lives and has taken us years to recover from the fear and horror of what happened, and also what could have happened. Warning labels have very little impact on nine-year-old boys. And, I could have been standing right next to him, not knowing the risk.

Sadly, having survived this near-fatal accident, we were angered to find conflicting stories among several of our community organizations.

The park district said the soccer organization that bought the equipment was responsible for checking the equipment for every soccer game, but not for incidents that occur when the goals are not in use for soccer games.

I notified the police department of the incident when we were at the E.R. with our son. They notified the park district, which subsequently sent their staff to install stakes on the goal (witnesses say it took less than an hour after the accident to install them). We found this very suspicious and later learned that the park district claimed the goal was secure at all times, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

The park district denied that the anchoring of the goal took place after the accident, and we only have a group of boys as witnesses.

After this awful experience, I truly feel all of America ’s children are at risk. Knowing this is a preventable accident, parents, park districts, coaches, referees, soccer organizations and the public in general must do more to protect our children. Learning too late is the current experience, resulting in needless injuries and deaths.

© Copyright 2005 Anchored For Safety.

AFS is an initiative of the Zachary Tran Memorial Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing youth access to worthwhile educational, athletic and artistic activities, and advancing the education of the general public on the dangers of unanchored soccer goals and promoting overall soccer goal safety. Click here for legal disclaimers.