During a high school boy’s lacrosse game in May, 2019, Lance Fenderson of Davidson Day School in N.C. found himself between his team’s goal and an opponent. Fenderson, according to the Charlotte Observer, “held his ground” but just before impact he lowered his head. His neck was broken in three places, and he is paralyzed from the neck down. Ten months later his parents are suing his coach, the athletic trainer of the opposing school, and the player who collided with their son. The other player is charged with a count of willful and wanton conduct. One of the charges against Fenderson’s coach is that he failed to match their son with a similarly sized opponent.
The mentioned charges are just a few of many by the Fendersons, but what I find most interesting is that they are suing the other player for “willful and wanton conduct” as if he meant to break their son’s neck in three places. They allege that “Instead of turning to avoid Lance, (he) lowered his shoulder, accelerated…driving Lance’s (lowered) head into the base of his neck” When they allowed their son to play boy’s lacrosse did they not know that it is a contact sport? Did they never ask why he wore shoulder pads, a helmet, and more gear? Had they never seen a game and witnessed contact between players? Players in boy’s lacrosse collide and that leads to unfortunate consequences at times. But to charge that player with “willful and wanton conduct” seems unreasonable. They say that the opposing player and his teammates celebrated while their son fell to the ground. That may be true, but players do celebrate, and I suspect that their son had cheered on the field as well. That complaint by the Fenderson’s makes the accusation that the player was celebrating the severe injury their son suffered. I doubt that.
The parents also sue the coach for not teaching his players to keep their heads up during contact and for not “matching Fenderson with a similarly sized …player or properly substitute, leaving Fenderson exhausted and more susceptible to injury.” Perhaps Fenderson’s parents are not aware that lacrosse is a fast game and unlike wrestling, players are not “matched up” but will find themselves facing opponents of various sizes. Perhaps their son was tired, but no coach I know or ever knew keeps overly tired players on the field because if they are that exhausted, they are not playing well so they are substituted for.
Having lived in a wheelchair for twenty years, I have a sense of what Lance Fenderson and his family will experience. However, he is the one who “held his ground” and “lowered his head.” Those two acts make Lance Fenderson responsible for the unfortunate injury he has suffered, and not the opposing player or his coach.
Adults teach that choices have consequences. Lance Fenderson’s parents made a choice when they allowed their son his choice to play lacrosse. He played the game, they most likely watched him play, supporting him in his choice. In a game last May, he chose to hold his ground as an opponent ran toward him, and he lowered his head. The choices of the Fenderson family led to Lance’s injury. Now they live with them.