SYRACUSE — Everything about the play seemed normal.
Ty Burke’s leg muscle, in fact, was anything but.
Burke, a senior receiver for Syracuse High’s football team, was blocking on a run play during the Titans’ game at Northridge last season when a linebacker missed the tackle on the ball carrier.
The linebacker’s knee slid right into Burke’s left calf, then Burke fell and hit the linebacker’s facemask with the same part of his leg. Burke’s leg hurt and started swelling slightly. He missed the rest of the game.
Later that night, he realized he couldn’t move his ankle, which he thought was strange because the two impacts happened closer to his knee.
The real pain started the next morning during a film session.
“I started icing during film and it just contracted from the ice and that’s when it happened. It was about 30 minutes into film, so I was sitting there just biting my shirt in pain trying not to make a scene and after (film), I hurried to the hospital. Within an hour of being in the hospital I was in surgery,” Burke said.
The surgery was for compartment syndrome, a painful and potentially damaging condition involving intense swelling in a very small area of the body.
Nearly a year later, Burke is finally 100% healthy and ready to contribute for Syracuse in a huge way on the field, but it wasn’t without the freak injury and a very long recovery.
WHAT IS COMPARTMENT SYNDROME?
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), compartment syndrome is a condition that occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels.
This pressure can decrease or completely block blood flow, which prevents nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells and thus can have severe effects, both short-term and long-term.
There are two types of compartment syndrome: acute and chronic.
Chronic compartment syndrome can be treated many ways, including physical therapy, orthotics and anti-inflammatory medicine.
Acute compartment syndrome, on the other hand, is a serious medical emergency for which the only known treatment is surgery, according to the AAOS.
“You never believe it could’ve been something that serious,” Syracuse head coach Mike Knight said. “Obviously you want to make sure the kids are safe but like something that, just the detail of where he was hit and all, it almost has to be a perfect injury — I hate using the term perfect injury, but it was.”
Any delay in having the surgery (which is called a fasciotomy and involves a long incision(s) along the affected area) can result in irreversible muscle and nerve damage, according to the Muscle, Ligaments and Tendons Journal.
The Open Orthopaedics Journal expands on that definition of damage which can include various infections, rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle tissue and the release of those fibers into the bloodstream, which adversely affects kidney function) and renal insufficiency (poor kidney function).
All of those can lead or contribute to extreme measures like amputation.
“The doctor told me, he’s like, ‘You could’ve been 10 minutes or 10 hours away from losing your leg,’” Burke said.
Burke said he and his family were planning going to Bear Lake that Saturday after the Northridge game, but thankfully the plans were altered.
Even if it was a freak injury, Burke can’t shake the feeling of being a little worried of the same thing happening to his other leg.
THE LONG WAY BACK
Burke is now 100% healthy, he says. He had the surgery to relieve compartment syndrome swelling on Sept. 1 of last year. He came back to the football field a month later against Clearfield at about 50%.
“There was one play, the first time we scored, I had four defenders on me and I was basically just trying to run to the end zone. I barely got there, they had four on me and we scored easy,” Burke said.
Two years ago, he broke out as a sophomore for 797 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns to go with 56 tackles and five interceptions on defense. In the two full games he played to start last year, he was about on that pace — hence, he drew a ton of defensive attention.
It turns out, one doesn’t just get a leg sliced open and recover from surgery overnight. There were some complications afterward with his ankle and foot.
Burke required physical therapy to regain the full motion of his foot. Various leg-strengthening exercises have kind of made his left leg stronger than his right.
He was running a month after surgery but didn’t get to 100% until the end of track and field season, and Knight was there to witness Burke’s big moment.
Burke clocked an 11.12-second time in the 100 meter dash at the state track and field championships, good for third place in a race featuring teammate Nathan Kaufusi, who’s at Utah State on a track scholarship.
The Titans won the team championship on the boys side for added effect.
He looked healthy in May on a cushy track in Provo and he’s looked healthy in summer practice.
All the Titans can hope for is that they get the version of Ty Burke that raised so many eyebrows as a sophomore on the football field and then burned the air in track and field season.
WEEK 1 SCHEDULE
GAME OF THE WEEK: NORTHRIDGE AT VIEWMONT
This game pits a darkhorse Region 1 title contender, Northridge, against a three-time defending region champion, Viewmont. Each team has a high-profile college football prospect on their team: Northridge’s Otto Tia (receiver, defensive end) and Viewmont’s Alex Harrison (offensive and defensive line). It’s unlikely this game will be a repeat of Viewmont’s 34-7 win last year.
BINGHAM AT WEBER
Jayson Anderson starts his tenure as Weber head coach by welcoming Utah’s premier high school football program to his school’s new turf field. Since 2004, Bingham has an overall record of 175-22 with seven state championships. The two teams have met just once since 1970: a 30-0 win for Bingham in the 2014 playoffs.
WEST JORDAN AT ROY
West Jordan’s won all three meetings with Roy, all of which were in the 1990s. Defensive coordinator Eric Jones will serve as Roy’s acting head coach while head coach Fred Fernandes serves a one-game suspension for last year’s playoff semifinal ejection. WJ’s new coach is Carson Mund, a former assistant coach at Box Elder and Weber.
TIMPANOGOS AT FARMINGTON
Last year’s 48-7 Timpanogos win was the first game in Farmington football history. The Phoenix’s lone touchdown, the first in its school history, came on a 50-yard pass from Wyatt Evertsen to Hayden Wilcox.
JUDGE MEMORIAL AT OGDEN
Ogden’s aiming to win consecutive season openers for the first time since 1992. Judge is coached by Will Hawes, a former head coach at Clearfield and Layton Christian, assistant coach at Weber and Ogden, and a former Weber State football player who might be best remember for playing at WSU in the late 1990s while he was in his late 20s and early 30s.
BEN LOMOND AT PAYSON
Each school has finished .500 or better just once this millennium. Ben Lomond went 6-5 in 2000 and Payson was 5-5 in 2009. The last time the Scots beat a team from Utah County was in 1992 against ... Payson.
BRIGHTON AT FREMONT
Fremont has defeated Brighton five times (2006, 2011 twice, 2016, 2018) and each season that’s happened has coincided with a playoff success. The Silverwolves went to the semifinals in ‘06, the state title game in ‘11, the semis in ‘16 and the quarterfinals in ‘18.
HUNTER AT BONNEVILLE
The last and only time Bonneville played Hunter was in 1993 when the Lakers moved up to the 5A classification from 4A, just like this year. Of all the teams in the state who didn’t make the playoffs last year, the Lakers have the longest winning streak at two games. Parking will be limited due to the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” event happening nearby.
HERRIMAN AT DAVIS
It’s not often Davis High meets a Utah team for the first time in school history, which the Darts will do when they host Herriman. You have to go back to 2007 when Syracuse opened for the last time the Darts saw a team for the first time.
SKYLINE AT LAYTON
Layton beat Skyline 49-0 in the 2007 state quarterfinals. This is the pair’s first regular-season meeting since 2000 and the Lancers haven’t beaten the Eagles in the regular season since a 33-15 win in 1971.
CLEARFIELD AT WEST
The last meeting between the two sides was a 27-0 West win in the 1975 4A playoffs. Curiously, West won all three of its playoff games 27-0 that year and won the state title. The Falcons are going for their 250th all-time victory, according to prep football historian George Felt.
SYRACUSE AT GRANGER
The Titans and Lancers were region foes in 2015 and 2016 in the old 5A Region 2 and split both most-recent meetings.
BOX ELDER AT KEARNS
This meeting pits defending region champions against each other (Kearns won Region 2 last year, Box Elder won a share of Region 5). Kearns has been through the ringer the past five months. In March, one of the Cougars’ 2018 team captains was paralyzed after a neck injury at a trampoline park. Another former player was shot and killed in July in West Valley City. Two players were suspended in June after they posted anti-LGBTQ content on social media.
JUAN DIEGO AT BEAR RIVER
Bear River has won two-straight against Juan Diego, the Bears’ first winning streak ever against JD. The No. 2 prep football recruit in Utah is JD defensive end Xavier Carlton. Bears defensive coordinator Jared Lish is the team’s acting head coach while head coach Chris Wise serves a suspension.
MORGAN AT GRAND COUNTY
In the 1991-92 and 92-93 school years, Morgan and Grand were in 2A Region 9 together, so each school made the four-and-a-half hour drive to see each other quite regularly. The Trojans are 5-0 against the Red Devils since 1972.
WOODS CROSS AT WESTLAKE
Woods Cross beat Westlake 35-0 in a 2012 first-round playoff game in their only prior meeting.
BOUNTIFUL AT HILLCREST
Bountiful beat Hillcrest in a 1978 playoff game, the last meeting between the two schools. The Huskies are on a 15-game losing run.
LAYTON CHRISTIAN AT PAROWAN
LCA is 2-6 all-time against Parowan. Fotu Katoa, the Eagles’ new head coach, attempts to be the first LCA head coach to win his debut game since Kitt Rawlings in 2012.