Missouri high school track athlete struck in head by shot put

O'FALLON, Mo. | A St. Louis-area high school track athlete is making what a hospital spokesman calls an amazing recovery after being struck in the head by a shot put.

Joe Mathews, a sophomore at St. Dominic Catholic High School, was hit in the forehead during a track meet Tuesday at Orchard Farm High School. Both schools are in St. Charles County.

Mathews suffered a skull fracture and was flown to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. He was originally in intensive care and on a ventilator. But on Wednesday, his condition improved rapidly. By Thursday, he was listed in good condition.

Cardinal Glennon spokesman Bob Davidson said Mathews is expected to make a full recovery and likely can return to sports in a few months.

"It's an amazing thing," Davidson said. "You hate to throw around the word 'miracle' because we see miraculous things here all the time, but to have happen to him what did happen, and to have Joe sitting up in bed and talking to his parents — it's a pretty great thing."

Investigators are still trying to determine how the incident happened, said Tim McInnis, assistant superintendent for the Orchard Farm district. Shot puts used in boys high school competition typically weigh 12 pounds, though rules allow them to weigh more.

St. Dominic's principal, Sister Mary Bender, declined comment, referring calls to the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Calls to a spokeswoman for the archdiocese were not returned.

But school officials were clearly concerned after the incident. Counselors were brought in for Mathews' teammates. Coach Joe Haug and members of the track team were among those who attended a Mass for him on Wednesday.

Davidson said the shot put struck Mathews flush in the forehead.

"There was a lot of very appropriate concern," he said. "It popped him pretty good."

St. Dominic, in O'Fallon, has 747 students in grades 9-12.