PHOENIX — GCU soccer player Rafael Guerrero is facing a challenge tougher than any opponent he’s faced on the field. He’s currently a patient at Barrow Neurological Center where he’s being treated for a traumatic brain injury he sustained just more than a week ago when the Lopes took on Seattle U.
Guerrero was having an incredible game, racking up more than a half dozen saves and on his way to another shutout match, when in the 88th minute he dove for yet another save, and took a knee to the head.
It’s a moment teammate Esai Easley remembers clearly.
“I turn around and see Rafa come around and I’m like ok he’s gonna save it. So he comes out and the collision happens and he does save it.” He continued, “some of the guys come to me to celebrate because it’s a shot on goal and we look around and Rafa’s on the ground and I knew it was that serious because he was just kind of not moving.”
His mom Bianca was in the stands and said watching her son lying on the field was surreal. He had never been injured before and the team’s reaction told her everything she needed to know.
“You could see on the players faces that it was bad.”
And it is. She said the brain scans show damage to his frontal lobe. Outside, a cut deep and long.
“I’ve seen the brain scans and I’ve been told it’s the worst sports-related traumatic brain injury they’ve ever treated.”
Burns-Guerrero said she’s not surprised that despite this kind of injury, her son is recovering beyond expectations.
“Hearing that and then having it flipped to he’s doing better than he has any right to has been a real blessing.”
It’s too early to say what his long-term prognosis will be…or whether he will play soccer again, right now she said they’re just taking things one baby step at a time.
"My mantra to him when he’s in the goal, is be big, be bold and be brave and my mantra to him in the hospital is you are whole you are healed you are complete and you are loved.”
Guerrero was named the Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the week for his performance.
The family is facing increasing medical expenses and has set up a GoFundMe account for anyone willing and able to help.