A frightening incident during a girls soccer game Wednesday at Mercy High led officials to invoke a little-used rule: suspending the game because the atmosphere was not proper to continue.
Catholic High soccer player Maria Llusrio collapsed about 17 minutes into the second half. It was believed she had stopped breathing, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was administered by a game official. Doctors later said that she had not stopped breathing, and Llusrio was cleared to play again after staying overnight in a hospital.
Game officials decided the incident was so traumatic that it would be unwise to continue the contest. The game will be played in its entirety later this month.
Charlie Palmore, the 20-year veteran official who administered the CPR, described what happened 17 minutes, 23 seconds into the second half of the Catholic League soccer game at the Northeast Baltimore school:
"She was on defense at the Mercy end, and she just fell over. She was hyperventilating. We thought it was minor, so we figured we'd give her a few minutes. When she didn't come around after about five or seven minutes, my concern grew. I've been trained in CPR.
"While I watched her chest rise and fall, I noticed it seemed to be getting shallow. The other official [Rich Aull] had her pulse, and he said it was getting faint. When she stopped breathing, I gave her two rescue breaths, and she came to. The paramedics arrived a few minutes later."
The delay lasted about 35 to 40 minutes. Palmore said there was little question that the game should have been called.
"We tried to keep quiet what had happened, but I believe some of the players realized CPR had been administered," Palmore LTC said. "We felt it best to suspend the game at that point and let it be picked up later."
According to Harry Young, who heads the officials group that handles Catholic League soccer, game officials are allowed to suspend a game under the Federation Internationale de Football Association rules.
"Law No. 5 of the FIFA rules gives the referee discretion of the game," said Young. "He has the right to terminate or call the game if he feels the atmosphere is such [as to warrant such action]."
Young said he could not recall many instances when a game was suspended due to injury. He did cite an incident at a recreation league game at Mount Carmel School last weekend, when a player suffered a serious neck injury and the game was called.
"Usually, the kids are too afraid," Young said.
Palmore, 47, said he was not shaken by Wednesday's incident. In fact, he said he officiated three more games later that evening at LaTrobe Park.
"It wasn't that emotionally draining for me, but for the teams it was," he said. "It was for their sake that we did not continue."
According to Catholic athletic director Kathy Jo Harris, Llusrio, a junior, was kept overnight for observation at Good Samaritan Hospital, where she was taken by ambulance. She was released Thursday afternoon. Doctors said her condition was caused by dehydration.
"It was not as serious as what happened on the field," said Harris. "The doctor said there was never a cessation of breath. He explained that sometimes the breaths become so shallow they cannot be detected. All the tests have been run, and she has been medically cleared."