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Spinal injuries and sport.

View profile for Kim Daniells
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The world of elite sport is also, often,  a world of risk and sometimes, of devastating injury.  Life-threatening injuries occur in just a fraction of a second and careers can be ended, or significantly disrupted , as we saw recently with the terrible injuries suffered by Chris Froome.  Few injuries however can be as terrible as those suffered by another top cyclist,  Kristina Vogel in 2018.  Vogel had won 11 world titles, two Olympic gold medals and three European championships in her cycling career.  In June 2018 during a training session in her native Germany, Vogel collided with a Dutch cyclist whilst travelling at close to 40 mph.

The impact severed her spinal-cord at the seventh thoracic vertebrae.  It left her paralysed and in a wheelchair.  In interviews Vogel has talked of knowing immediately and instinctively that she would never walk again.  Her remarkable spirit, even in the face of such adversity, has seen the suggestion that she may look to participate in paralympic sport.  She also began a new career in politics less than 12 months after suffering injury.

It is heartening to see that Vogel's indomitable character remains intact.  The sobering reality that an elite athlete could suffer such a devastating injury in a routine training session on a track, is a reminder that spinal-cord injury does not discriminate.  It affects the young and the old, the sedentary and the active.

Our work with individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries,  tells us that the challenges they face may will be similar, regardless of their age or the circumstances of injury.  They face the challenge of securing funding for care and support and of managing day-to-day physical needs.  They also encounter the practical difficulties of mobilising and the problem of gaining access to a world that is far from wheelchair friendly.

Although participation in sport carries a risk of injury, it also continues to play a significant part in rehabilitation for many individuals with spinal cord injury. It is also undoubtedly the case that the increased profile of paralympic sport over recent years has helped to raise public awareness of the challenges posed by spinal-cord injury. Advances in elite sports materials and science can help to pave the way for improvements in equipment for all. Vogel, herself, has had the support of the cycling community in raising funds to assist with her recovery.

The effort, dedication, resilience and sacrifices made by the stars of the sporting world often provide a source of inspiration to others - rarely more so than in the case of Kristina Vogel and her response to injury.  We wish her well, wherever her career takes her.