Wayne Hills Patriot Football Players Are Taught a Lesson About Safety


Starting seniors Mike Fernicola, Matthew Quagliana, Tay Shim, Nick Hogan, and Tyler Demikoff walking out pre-game

By Stephanie Tulpan, Staff Writer

Recent adversities in the NFL have left fans all across America concerned about the unrecognized dangers of the sport.

On Monday, January 2, Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin went into sudden cardiac arrest only nine minutes into the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin, only twenty four years old, was not known to have any prior health concerns that could have led to the arrest, although medical professionals are suspecting it could possibly have been a post-tackle “freak accident.”

Though Hamlin is discharged from the hospital and recovering, fans are feeling uneasy about the growing number of NFL players to go into cardiac arrest mid-game. The question of whether football is “too dangerous” to play is rising, as well as many others regarding general safety precautions of the sport.

The football community here at Wayne Hills is exceptionally large. At Hills, we love football, whether it’s playing the sport, coaching it, or watching our Patriots in action on Friday nights. The sport is recognized as a fun, American classic, although we have to ask: how safe are our players really?

For Wayne Hills Football Coaches, safety is a top priority. If drills and tackles are not performed correctly, injuries straight to the head, neck, or knee are likely to transpire. Sophomore defensive end and offensive tackle John Grant made the statement: “Our coaches take safety very seriously. Form tackling is a huge thing at practice so nobody gets any injuries. And we have the best of the best equipment.” Between the coaches constantly reiterating the on-field precautions needed to be taken and much of the team’s funding going towards high quality helmets, cleats, and padding, the Patriots feel confident, comfortable, and most importantly, safe while playing.

In football, the most common injuries are the MCL sprain, the meniscus tear, and the ACL tear. According to the National Library of Medicine, “There was an increased proportion of in-season ACL tears in the 2020 NFL season.” Relative to the year 2014, the number of ACL tears in football players continues to increase each year, recently impacting the Wayne Hills Patriots. 

This past summer, the Patriots were in an intense “7on7” against Pascack Valley. The game was rolling when number five on the Patriots, Senior Tay Shim dove to bat down a pass and landed the wrong way, tearing his left ACL. According to his account of the moment, “It didn’t feel real and I didn’t realize I tore it until I got an MRI two weeks later.”

This marked a big change in Shim’s high school football career. He had to consider both his health in the moment and down the road, although was he willing to let go of years of hard work, dedication, and brotherhood so soon? 

Shim, having played football through his four years of high school, was determined to finish off his last season strong. Shockingly, despite his injury, he still practiced six days a week and played in every Varsity game until the end of the season, wearing a brace on his left knee. One set back, though, was that his doctors said he could no longer play defense, which was his main position prior to the accident.

In most cases of ACL tears, surgery is recommended. Though, Shim opted for no surgery as it would have put a pause on his senior football season, and instead decided to put up one last fight. His determination and toughness shocked his teammates, including sophomore offensive guard and defensive tackle Chris Romano: “When I first found out Tay was practicing on a torn ACL, I was definitely surprised. The impact he had on our team while suffering such a serious injury at the same time was awe-inspiring and certainly taught us a lot about the seriousness of being safe while playing.”

Shim shocked his teammates with his decision, although he can confidently say that he wouldn’t have missed his senior season for anything, even surgery: “I still played because it was my senior year. I worked four years to get to that point and I wouldn’t miss it. I had to play my last year with my team and I couldn’t miss it due to surgery.” 

Shim took a big risk this past season by continuing to play football even with a serious ACL tear. Though, through it all, his teammates stood by his side, and it is safe to say that they have all taken this as a learning experience about the seriousness of on-field safety and the fragility of one’s career. Similar to Damar Hamlin’s recent impact on the football community, the Patriots will continue to approach football more cautiously, and value brotherhood even more than they did before.