Tulsa teen making “remarkable progress” after brain injury during high school football game

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Keviyon Cooper runs the ball against Jenks earlier this season
Source: Tulsa World/Ian Maule

A young Tulsa athlete has made “remarkable progress” recovering from a severe traumatic brain injury sustained during a football game between Union and Owasso High School.

Union running back Keviyon Cooper had just helped lead his team to a double-overtime victory with perhaps his best game in his young career when he was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance.

Due to his parents’ request for privacy, little is known about what occurred between the time the game ended and his sudden trip to the hospital. But, since then he underwent surgery to relieve bleeding in his brain. For many, this could be the start of a years-long struggle to recover.

While Cooper is still not out of the woods, the early signs are promising. A press release said that while he remains on a rehab floor for treatment, he is expected to be released in the coming days – a remarkably quick turnaround compared to most who undergo similar procedures. Still, those close to him say he has “a long road ahead of him.”

Cooper’s story is becoming increasingly common, and the details raise concern about the safety of letting young athletes play football.

Most expect a traumatic brain injury to be somewhat obvious on the field. They expect there to be a massive collision, illegal play, or some other sign that something may be amiss. If they don’t see a colossally big hit, they at least expect the player to be sluggish, dazed, or slow to get up after the play.

As Keviyon Cooper shows, that is not always true.

There was no single hit that obviously contributed to Cooper’s brain injury, and no one seemed to notice anything was wrong until he was rushed to the hospital. In fact, there is not a single report from the game that mentions any injury to Keviyon. The athlete was allowed to play the entire game, earning 159 yards across 30 carries. Any of those plays could be the one that led Cooper to undergo emergency surgery.

Despite the cautionary story in front of them, Keviyon Cooper’s teammates are largely unfazed. They took the field again this week, wearing stickers emblazoned with Cooper’s jersey number to show support for the athlete, saying he helped inspire them to continue their unbroken winning streak.

However, Cooper’s injury has resonated throughout the city. He was voted the readers’ choice Tulsa World player of the week and the Bob Hurley Athlete of the Week in the wake of his injury, and his family says they’ve received overwhelming support from all across Tulsa.

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