Post-concussion symptoms cannot keep Anoka’s Savini down for long

Anoka senior Max Savini is off to an impressive spring golf season.

The top Tornado golfer won the prestigious Bunker Hills Invitational May 7 with a two-under-par 70 with one of the stronger fields on the site of the state meet in June.

He edged Spring Lake Park’s Pete Sienko by one stroke and helped Anoka tie Hastings for fourth place out of 22 teams with a team score of 307 strokes, four shots behind the team-champion Panthers.

The performance was only the latest of what has been a great spring so far with two medalist honors through three conference matches; rounds of 80 and 81 at the Detroit Lakes Invite and a round of 77 to place fifth at the Stillwater Invite played at Logger’s Trail, in yet another top-tier tournament.

Senior Max Savini has been the top golfer for Anoka while continuing to deal with post-concussion symptoms that cut short his prep hockey days. He captured medalist honors (70) at the 22-team-deep Bunker Hills Inviational May 7.

Senior Max Savini has been the top golfer for Anoka while continuing to deal with post-concussion symptoms that cut short his prep hockey days. He captured medalist honors (70) at the 22-team-deep Bunker Hills Inviational May 7.Photo by Jason Olson

Despite his success on the golf course, Max has been dealing with post-concussion symptoms for more than two years.

A hit during the first day of hockey tryouts as a sophomore gave Max a jolt where he saw white spots but didn’t think much of it.

That was, until a second concussion left him seeing white in the locker room just before Christmas break.

An awkward hit along the bench during a junior varsity game all but ended his competitive hockey days.

“Everything turned white and I couldn’t see for four-five minutes,” Max recalled and still deals with the effects of a brain injury with headaches.

His father, Robert Savini, noticed something wasn’t right and joined Max and a coach in the locker room after the hit.

Robert, who served six years as president of the Anoka Youth Hockey Association, introduced USA Hockey’s head injury guidelines during the annual S.K.A.T.E. banquet in 2011, added: “[Max] started to put his helmet on but [head coach] Todd [Manthey] told him to get dressed.”

Max didn’t improve and they made the decision to go to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital to be sure he was fine.

The doctors explained to Robert that Max either sustained a concussion or had brain tumor, given the symptoms. Tests concluded concussion was the culprit.

He’s dealt with post-concussion symptoms including headaches and stress since then, missing the final five months of his sophomore year at school because he was living in a dark room to cope. Robert estimated his son missed another 40 school days as a junior and 35 days so far as a senior.

“It’s really hit or miss for him right now,” Robert said about Max’s headaches flaring up from a multitude of triggers like homework load or intensive studying for extended periods of time. “Tuesday morning he couldn’t get out of bed and then he’s out for three-four days.”

He’s continued to hold down the No. 1 spot for the golf team over the last two seasons.

“It’s still day-to-day,” Max said. “Everything I do is a calculated risk. Do I go to school, play golf, go out with buddies? It’s really trial and error.”

Max managed to skate with the hockey team during practice at least a couple times each week and said he is lucky to have understanding coaches to allow him to still be part of the team.

Hockey was his top sport but the injury switched that focus to golf.

“It’s totally a different sport,” he said about switching from a hockey mentality to golf. “All you have to do [in golf] is control your emotions where hockey is different. When you golf you have four hours to yourself and you see the team after you play whereas with hockey is the opposite.”

Max said he gets two types of headaches on the golf course. He can deal with the pain until after the round but its the dizzy-inducing variety that give him the most trouble.

“It’s difficult but I usually fight through the pain if I have some Advil with me,” Max said.

Robert said his son is a straight-A student and dedicated to golf. Before the injury, Max would spend days of summer break at the golf course, wearing out his wedges every six months as a result of hitting thousands of golf balls.

As a freshman he won the Forest Lake Invitational, which was a first tournament win for an Anoka freshman in two decades.

Last year Max qualified for the state amateur and played through a headache on the first day to card a round in the low 80s but couldn’t continue for the second round.

During the high school golf season he was one shot away from a playoff at sections at Bunker Hills, site of the section tournament again.

He’s played junior PGA events for around the last decade and plans to compete on the Player’s Tour Series again this summer and possibly into college in the years to come.

Sharing his thoughts with others is one way Max is trying to deal with the post-concussion symptoms and how serious they need to take the symptoms regardless of how it happened.

“When I see someone take a hit,” Mas said. “I want to be the first one to say to them, ‘Don’t take it lightly. You don’t want to screw around with that.’”

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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