Minnesota High School Soccer All-American Elliot Cassutt Looking to Raise the Bar After Removing It
It may be hard to believe, but a young man who’s been setting state high school records and turning the heads of more than a few soccer coaches has been playing with a disability for over three years. In fact Elliot Cassutt, the 16-year-old Minneapolis high school soccer player who now plays with the Minnesota Thunder Development Academy U-15/16 team and prior to that Minneapolis United soccer club, has been playing with a disability his whole life.
Cassutt has had a condition since birth called pectus excavatum which is Latin for hollowed chest. It can’t be corrected until a certain state in an adolescence development. “It makes your rib cage curl inwards so it decompresses your lungs and cuts down their capacity,” explained Cassutt of his condition. “It made it really hard to get into shape and keep up with the other kids I was playing sports with.”
The procedure used most often to correct pectus excavatum is called the Nuss Procedure. An incision is made on each side of the ribs. A curved bar is then placed into the chest. Once inside, the bar is rotated to expand the chest and is attached on one end to the muscles on the ribs. The bar must stay in place for three years before it can be removed.
“It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced,” said Cassutt of the procedure done when he was only 13-years-old. “I was on three different pain killers at the time but it was the worst pain ever.”
During the last 3 years Cassutt has been going about his business like any other student athlete. Except the Minneapolis South student has been excelling at soccer despite having that metal bar in his chest. Cassutt set not one but two new Minnesota State High School League records in 2010, one that stood since the mid ’90s. The Minneapolis forward set records for most goals scored in a season with 44 and most points in a season with 65. This year he was named to the NSCAA High School All-American Team.
Cassutt had the procedure done in 2008 just before entering 8th grade and afterwards wasn’t allowed to play sports for 4 months. When he finally did return to the soccer field he found the new device in his body was not always pleasant if he wanted to be competitive.
“For the first 2 years, if I got knocked pretty hard, I could feel the bar and it would hurt pretty bad,” Cassutt said. “One time I was knocked down and could really feel it. It made it hard to breathe and I was wheezing. It was definitely pretty scary. But eventually I was able to get in better shape and keep up with the other guys. Obviously, I improved as a soccer player during that time. The past year has been a lot better.”
The high school junior says his doctor believes he may have been fighting another side effect from the bar even when he was breaking those state records. When the device was finally removed in early December, an outpatient procedure, the medical team found sutures that never dissolved from the original surgery. According to Cassutt’s physician, that most likely caused the young athlete’s body to believe it was being infected and caused an energy drain of up to 10%. With athletes, a small percentage often means big differences in success.
With the bar now removed, Cassutt is hoping to up his game and his performance. “I’m really excited to get back on the field without it.”
Just before the procedure to remove the bar, Cassutt attended the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Showcase in Florida where he scored two goals and assisted on another, helping his team to a 2-0-1 record. “I think I did really well for myself in terms of the team and think I won my starting position,” said Cassutt of his play, explaining that he only had limited playing time in his first game with the Academy after transferring from Minneapolis United.
Cassutt played well enough to get the attention of a few college scouts as well. Since his performance at the Showcase, Cassutt has had a number of contacts from Division I colleges, including Xavier and Princeton.