Overcoming Spinal Cord Injury: One Athlete Believes

Of the estimated 11,000 spinal cord injuries sustained by Americans each year, 15% are related to sports and athletic activities. More than half of people who sustain spinal cord injury are male, and the majority are between ages 16 and 30. For these active young adults, life is irrevocably altered in a fraction of a second.

An injury to the spinal cord does not, however, mean the end to a productive and happy life. Paralyzed Rutgers University football player Eric LeGrand is one athlete determined to beat odds, live with gratitude, and carry a message of hope to countless others.

While making a tackle during an October 2010 football game, LeGrand, a defensive tackle for Rutgers, fractured his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae, instantly paralyzing him from the neck down. Doctors initially gave him a 5% chance of regaining neurologic function.

Following emergency surgery, LeGrand spent five months at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and is already regaining movement in his shoulders and arm and sensation throughout his body. Today, the 20-year-old continues intensive therapies several days a week. He takes classes. He tweets. He shares his story of inspiration. He believes with all his heart he will walk again.

LeGrand recently spoke at the New Jersey Special Olympics opening ceremony, instilling in attendees the power of perseverance and reminding them to “Believe.”

Immediate trauma care and timely transfer to a rehabilitation facility are crucial for a spinal cord injury patient’s best chances for recovery. Kessler is a top 10 rehabilitation hospital according to a May 2011 ranking by U.S. News & World Report. Rounding out the top ten are:

  1. Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Chicago
  2. Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, West Orange, NJ
  3. University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle
  4. Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston
  5. TIRR Memorial Hermann, Houston
  6. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  7. Craig Hospital, Englewood, Colo.
  8. Rusk Institute, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York
  9. Shepherd Center, Atlanta
  10. Moss Rehab, Elkins Park, Penn.

Angel MedFlight medically transports spinal cord injury patients to these and other rehabilitation centers across the country and around the world, helping them take the next steps on their journeys of recovery.

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, American Trauma Society,The National Spinal Cord Injury Association

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