Expert: Kick to head a minor factor in ex-player’s injury in Mankato

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, January 10, 2015

MANKATO — A prosecution expert said in a report released Friday that a kick allegedly delivered by former Minnesota Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson probably did not cause the critical brain injury suffered by former Minnesota State, Mankato, linebacker Isaac Kolstad during a fight.

Forensic pathologist Michael McGee instead pointed to an initial punch allegedly thrown by another defendant, Trevor Shelley, of St. Peter, as the most likely cause of the injuries Kolstad suffered during a fight on May 11 in Mankato. According to police, Nelson mistook Kolstad for a bouncer who had flirted with his girlfriend earlier in that night.

“My overall impression of this case is that the majority and possibly all of the injuries described in Mr. Kolstad are related to the initial punch to the street surface,” McGee concluded. “While Mr. Nelson may be responsible for some of the above-described injuries, based on the information provided, I am unable to state to a medical certainty that this is the case.”

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A forensic pathologist hired by the defense, Daniel Davis, reached the essentially same conclusion earlier. Nelson’s attorney, Jim Fleming, told KTOE-AM that the new medical opinion provides further reason to dismiss the charges against Nelson.

In a court filing Thursday, Fleming said three doctors have now confirmed a “lack of medical certainty” on whether Nelson injured Kolstad, so the charges against Nelson must be dismissed. Fleming’s earlier motion for dismissal remains pending.

“The state has to show that Mr. Nelson inflicted substantial bodily harm or great bodily harm. They cannot do that,” Fleming said.

Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott said he has forwarded the report to the judge who’s considering the earlier motion.

Kolstad suffered from a severe brain injury that required emergency surgery. Doctors once feared he wouldn’t live, but he spent months recovering at Mayo Clinic and a specialized rehab facility in the Twin Cities.

He’s now back at his Mankato home, attending outpatient therapy and is able to walk, run and form complete sentences. He hopes to eventually return to work at Fastenal, where he was a sales representative.