Sports

Paralyzed Athlete Robert Komosa Remembered as a Symbol of Courage

Rob Komosa and his mother, Barbara Komosa in 2001. (Chicago Tribune file photo)

Rob Komosa and his mother, Barbara Komosa in 2001. (Chicago Tribune file photo)

A 13-year struggle has come to an end for the family of Robert Komosa, who became a symbol of courage in his hometown of Rolling Meadows.

Komosa, 30, passed away March 16 in his Barrington Hills home of what his family suspects was respiratory failure, according to media reports.

In 1999, when he was a 17-year-old running back at Rolling Meadows High School, three players tackled Komosa during a drill, knocking him into a metal post in a fence near the practice field.

Komosa’s head was driven into a 6-inch diameter fence post located too close to the sideline. He was immediately rendered unconscious and he stopped breathing. He was revived through CPR and taken to the hospital. As result of this injury Komosa had no feeling or movement below his chin and had to breathe with the assistance of a ventilator, according to Spinal Cord Opportunities for Rehabilitation Endowment.

“He still loved football,” said Komosa’s sister, Ann Phister, to the Chicago Tribune. “He loved sports in general. All he watched was ESPN. Obviously, accidents can happen. … I think he knew the risk (of playing football) and accepted it.”

His family incurred financial hardship. As a result of his injury his mother, Barbara Komosa, had to leave her job and assist the nurses in order to provide 24-hour care.

The unpadded post was the focus of a lawsuit the family brought against Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214. The suit was settled in 2005 for $12.5 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. Lawyers and medical costs took most of that money, Komosa told the Daily Herald in 2009, but some was used to set up annuities and build the “dream house,” in which they are still unpacking.

After the accident, the post was padded and the practice field layout was changed, a District 214 spokeswoman told the Tribune recently.

Practice field at Rolling Meadows High School where seventeen-year-old Rob Komosa was injured during football practice. — Hung T. Vu, Chicago Tribune , Oct. 7, 1999, the day after the accident.

Practice field at Rolling Meadows High School where seventeen-year-old Rob Komosa was injured during football practice. — Hung T. Vu, Chicago Tribune , Oct. 7, 1999, the day after the accident.

The day after the accident, Rolling Meadows padded the post, displaying their guilt for an unprotected practice field. Although this action showed the school’s responsibility for lack of protection, it showed the fault that they have for Komosa’s injury and the life he had to live afterwards.

What about the guilt that the three players will have to live with for driving Komosa into the medal fence post? Where was the responsibility of the coaches who should have blown the whistle to stop the play before they drove him into the post? There are too many ‘what ifs’ that are left unanswered, 13 years later.

Komosa counseled others who suffered similar accidents, starred in a documentary about his recovery and gave his time to a charity that helps catastrophically injured athletes. He endured the frustrations that came with his mobile life due to his injuries.

“He still remained positive,” Phister said to the Chicago Tribune. “He still stayed positive to help people. He was able to be an inspiration to people in the same situation, as well as others of us who take things for granted.”

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