Provo • As the weeks passed by and the doctor visits mounted, those closest to Gunner Romney worried the BYU wide receiver’s season may be over before it began.
Watching her husband lay in a hospital bed with a pain pulsating through his stomach, Sadie Romney knew his injury wasn’t routine: a lacerated kidney that would ultimately require two months to heal before he would be cleared to play again.
“It has been super sad, super hard,” Sadie Romney said last week as she waited for her husband to make his season debut. “... When they kept pushing it back, I thought maybe he would come back next year. He still has the redshirt year. I know he would hate to do that but if it came down to it he would.”
Romney, a fifth-year senior, returned last Thursday after lacerating his kidney at the start of training camp in August. For most of the last month, BYU’s coaches have said Romney was close to returning and listed him as a “game-time decision.” But for a while, the Romneys worried the injury was severe enough that it could have derailed his entire 2022 season.
“It was a really serious injury,” Gunner said on BYUtv. “It wasn’t something we were taking lightly at all. … Luckily we have had a lot of medical help and medical opinions on this.”
The injury itself happened on the second day of training camp. Romney caught a ball and fell to the ground. During the catch, he cradled the ball squarely on his kidney and the blunt force of the fall was absorbed by his stomach. During the play, a defensive back also fell onto him and pushed an added body weight onto the kidney.
Immediately, Romney had the wind knocked out of him. But BYU was not practicing with pads and he did not think much of the injury.
It was not until later that night that Romney felt a sudden pain in his stomach and was rushed to the hospital.
“It was a freak accident,” Sadie Romney said. “We did not think he would be out for this long. … I was optimistic he could come back for [the season opener] if he needed to.”
But then it became apparent it wouldn’t be that simple. For the next week, Romney was admitted to the hospital as doctors ran tests. A lacerated kidney is a tear in the organ that causes internal bleeding. It is often caused by “blunt force trauma.”
The most common treatment is to wait for the kidney to heal on its own without surgery. The standard recovery time is six weeks, but it can vary depending on the severity. The injury must be monitored closely because, if left untreated, it can cause hypertension, according to Utah medical clinic.
In Romney’s case, doctors waited around six weeks for the kidney to heal. He was not fully cleared to practice until last Monday before the Utah State game, Sadie Romney said.
There were multiple points in the recovery process that Romney thought he could return. But when doctors continually told him to wait, Sadie Romney worried maybe his season would be in jeopardy.
BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake said Romney was back in practice before week 3 against Oregon. Romney, though, did not make the trip to Eugene and was not cleared for contact.
“Him not being able to practice has been sad, not being able to be in games,” Sadie Romney said. “He has worked out.”
Some believed Romney would come back for BYU’s fourth game against Wyoming. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said Romney was a “game-time decision” and Romney stretched with the team before the game.
However, Sadie Romney said her husband went for a CT scan in the middle of the week and doctors told him he needed another week before he was cleared.
“They said to wait for contact practice just to be safe” she said.
Romney came back for a fifth year in part to prove he could stay healthy for a 12-game season ahead of his candidacy for the NFL. This injury, they believe, is an isolated incident that does not hurt his case that he is a durable player. Romney says he is fully healthy now.
The biggest hurdle will be getting back into shape. He was on rep count against Utah State, and only played 33 snaps.
Romney said he needs to start practicing to get his stamina back. He was allowed to run, but that is not the same as football shape.
“He does always seem to have an injury in the middle of the season, but to start the season off like that was really sad,” Sadie Romney said. “But we are just happy he is back.”