ROCKSPRINGS — October 18, 1996 was a Friday night like any other Friday in Southeastern Ohio. The Meigs Marauders and the Waverly Tigers were battling in a football game at Waverly High School. The contest was hard fought from the opening kickoff and with the clock winding down, Waverly was on the drive for the winning touchdown. Meigs was clinging to a 21-20 lead with about a minute to go in the contest when Matt Williams stepped in front of a Waverly receiver and picked off a pass in the Meigs end zone to preserve the nail biting win.
The Marauders celebrated and when the clock went to 0:00 they went to the locker room to prepare for the long ride home. But outside the Meigs locker room it became apparent that this Friday night wasn’t like any other. In fact, it was one that is burned in the memory of the Meigs community and affects them to this day.
Matthew Ault, a senior defensive back who had played in the game took off his helmet when walking off of the field, began staggering and told an assistant coach that the lights were bothering his eyes and then suddenly collapsed outside the Meigs locker room and was non-responsive. One of the assistant coaches knew that Dr. Kelly Roush was nearby and ran and asked her to come and help. Matt was treated by Dr. Roush, Meigs and Waverly EMS personnel and a certified athletic trainer and transported to a local hospital. From there he was flown to The Ohio State University Trauma Center in Columbus where he passed away the next day.
An autopsy was conducted and it was suggested that Matt had died from the result of swelling of the brain caused by a brain hemorrhage. The autopsy report stated, “It is possible that the hemorrhage was caused by a direct blow to the head, and it is possible that the injury was sustained playing football.”
The days leading up to the game Matt didn’t show any signs of a head injury or that anything might be wrong. He complained of a slight headache the day before the game and a stiff neck the morning of the game.
Looking back, it is quite possible that Matt sustained the injury in the days or even weeks prior to that night. The contest the week before was very physical and Matt delivered and received many hard hits. Since then, everyone affected by Matt’s death has learned a great deal about head injuries, the signs and symptoms and the devastating results that can take place.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions occur every year, and the majority of them are due to playing athletics.
Since that night it has been a passion for Dr. Roush to find out how this could happen to a healthy young kid who just moments before was jumping up high fiving teammates after a tremendous victory. She has written a book entitled Sports Concussion and Neck Trauma: Preventing Injury For Future Generations. Dr. Roush who is the Director of Holzer Sports Medicine, is a strong advocate for athletics stating that there are a multitude of benefits from participating in athletics. She recommends learning about the signs and symptoms of a concussion, staying out of participation until you have been cleared to return by a sports medicine professional and following some simple preventative tips. Concussion can occur in any sport, in a motor vehicle accident, riding a four wheeler, riding your bicycle or from a simple fall.
Dr. Roush, along with former Meigs Coach Mike Chancey and Matt’s family, wish to honor Matt by helping people become aware of concussion signs and symptoms and possible safety precautions to help prevent catastrophic injury caused by head trauma. Since Matt’s injury, the athletic world has become more aware from the professional ranks down to the biddy leagues about concussions and head injuries. Education and technology have helped improve the prevention of these injuries and outcomes when they do occur. Nearly every level of athletics now has a concussion protocol allowing doctors to gauge when an athlete can safely return to action.
This Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. there will be a Concussion Awareness Program in the Meigs High School Auditorium. This event is being held in memory of Matt Ault and is open to the public. This gathering will not only be a sharing of the life of Matt but also provide education of head trauma, prevention and treatment. Speakers will include Southern football coach Mike Chancey, who was Matt’s coach at the time. Matt’s close friend Chad Dodson, and Dr. Kelly Roush.
This event is open to the public. All athletes, coaches, first responders, teachers and parents are welcome to attend.