'Back in action': Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos hockey player moves leg after surgery
Ryan Straschnitzki says he should be back in action in “no time.”
And while he doesn’t think he’ll be walking just yet, the 20-year-old Humboldt Broncos player certainly plans to hit the ice for sledge hockey practice soon.
It’s an ambitious plan for someone who just underwent major spinal surgery in Thailand. But Straschnitzki has good reason to be optimistic.
On Wednesday, Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed from the chest down in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, moved his leg for the first time in a year and a half.
“It didn’t feel real,” he told CTV News Channel from Bangkok, Thailand on Friday. “Not being able to move my legs for that long, I’ve kind of gotten used to it and doing that now makes me even more hopeful for the future.”
The remarkable feat was captured on camera by his father who posted the video on Twitter. In the short clip, Straschnitzki can be seen bending his left knee back and forth before a wide grin spreads across his face.
The moment came only two days after Straschnitzki had an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine. The small device sends electrical currents to his spinal cord in order to stimulate nerves and move his limbs.
“Before the surgery I had no movement below my chest,” Straschnitzki said. “After the surgery, the first mapping session we did is the video my dad took… he said ‘All right move your leg’ and I imagined pulling my leg back and it moved on its own. It was pretty surreal.”
The “mapping session” involves Straschnitzki’s surgeons and therapists programming the device in his spine to stimulate certain nerves. The process is expected to take several weeks, but Straschnitzki said he’s already feeling confident that he will be able to continue training while he’s still in Thailand.
“Recovery’s going good,” he said. “I do a lot of physio and programming to get the legs working. I’m very grateful for that and should be back in action in no time… back in a sled right away.”
Straschnitzki hopes to make Canada’s national sledge hockey team before the next Winter Paralympics in 2022.
The young athlete also said he hopes to be able to walk again someday.
“It’s been over a year and a half and I’m already having this surgery that’s helped me move my limbs again,” he said.
Following the bus crash in April 2018, which killed 16 people and injured 12 others, Straschnitzki said his doctors told him he would never walk again. But even that devastating blow wasn’t enough to deter him, even at that difficult time.
“I feel like some doctors always tell that to patients because they don’t want to get their hopes up. For me, at the Foothills hospital I was told that and right away I knew that’s not going to be my end goal,” he said.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to get moving again.”