Longboard accident keeps Onalaska teen from attending graduation

Tyler McCaffrey recently came out of a medically-induced coma

With the school year coming to a close, the number of people enjoying the outdoors will begin to rise, but while your kids are out on their bike, skateboard and roller blades, doctors want to remind you to have your kids wearing helmets.

One Onalaska family has recently found out how dangerous not wearing a helmet can be.

Tyler McCaffrey is a senior at Onalaska High School.

Last week, he was longboarding with his friends when they decided to go down a steep hill. It was only the second time Tyler had ever been on a longboard. When his friends got to the bottom of the hill, they looked back to see Tyler lying face down on the side of the road.

“Good, funny kid, liked to joke around, athletic, enjoyed his friends,” Tyler’s dad, Mike McCaffrey, said.

The accident happened less than a week before Tyler’s high school graduation.

“He didn’t slide very far, so I think it was a real hard impact to a quick stop,” Mike said. “He had fallen and fractured his skull in the back. If you imagine a line from your right ear to your left ear from your skull, he fractured it, and then from the left ear back to the right ear in the front base of the skull, so he has a 360-degree fracture of the back base of the skull. No gear, no helmet, no protection whatsoever.”

Tyler was in a medically induced coma until he awoke over the weekend.

“He has some motor functions — delayed speech functions, vision problems, which seem to be getting better each day as we go, but it’s going to be a very long road,” Mike said.

“It’s a spectrum. Some people with a head injury do very well with no care and some with minor head injuries can have some memory problems and difficulty concentrating, all the way on the spectrum to the people that are actually institutionalized for life because because they’re not able to take care of themselves,” emergency room physician Chris Eberlein said.

Eberlein says the number of injuries from longboards has gone up in recent years.

“We’ve been seeing head injuries more recently on more activities other than biking for people not wearing helmets. They don’t seem to think about it when they get on their longboard or their skateboard or their roller blades, but they really should be wearing a helmet on those activities as well,” he said.

Doctors haven’t told Mike if a helmet could have prevented this accident.

“I think we all know that it would have been a different outcome,” he said.

But he says Tyler’s younger siblings have now seen why wearing their helmet is so important.

Tyler missed his high school graduation last weekend, but the Onalaska High School principal said there will be a special graduation ceremony when Tyler is feeling better.

The McCaffreys said the map for Tyler’s road to recovery has not yet been discussed but it will be a long process.

Doctors say children learn by example. So parents, it may be best to wear your helmet too.