In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 21, 2017

Paralyzed Hockey Player Raising Funds for Spinal Cord Injury Research

By In the Loop

When he’s not in class or attending a fraternity event at the University of Southern California, you’ll likely find Jack Jablonski working to raise money for spinal cord injury recovery research at Mayo Clinic.

Jack Jablonski's life changed dramatically six years ago after a hockey accident left him paralyzed. Today the USC student is hopeful for what's to come, and raising funds so others with spinal cord injuries also have reason to hope.

Dec. 30, 2011. Jack Jablonski, then a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, was playing in a high school hockey game when his life changed forever.

"The game was tied 2-2 with 14 minutes left in regulation," the University of Southern California's Daily Trojan reports. "Jablonski took the puck in his defensive zone and skated up ice on a two-on-two. He moved past a defender and tried to head to the net but was cut off." Jack turned away, but a collision with two defenders sent him "face-first into the boards."

Unable to move after the impact, Jack was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital where doctors gave him a frightening diagnosis. The crash into the boards left him with a "complete injury" to his C5 and C6 vertebrae, essentially severing "everything in his neck vital for mobility and motion," according to the paper, which adds that "all feeling below the level of injury was lost."

Doctors also told Jack he'd "be lucky" to ever bend his right arm again. His left arm was a different story. "Your left arm's not going to move, really," they told him, according to the paper. But then they said, "Prove us wrong."

And in the six years since, that's what Jack's done time and time again. As the Daily Trojan reports, Jack did move his arm — "within a week" of his injury. And according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, "physical therapy has allowed him to activate some muscles in his core and lower back and regain some control of his biceps." And just last month Jack hit a new milestone when he moved one of his toes ever so slightly, giving him an "enormous emotional boost," the Times reports.

Jack is now a busy sophomore at USC, "majoring in communication and minoring in sports media studies," according to the school's daily paper. He's also a member of the school's Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. But he still makes time for the Jack Jablonski Bel13ve in Miracles Foundation, the spinal cord injury recovery foundation he started after his injury. The foundation, the Daily Trojan reports, "partners with the Mayo Clinic, one of the most reputable hospitals in the country" to raise money for "research and studies by the Mayo Clinic that Jablonski hopes will one day cure spinal cord injuries." According to the Times, Jack's continued progress is "worth celebrating and incentive for him to continue raising money for spinal cord injury research."

One promising research study that Jack's foundation recently helped fund at Mayo Clinic involves the use of "epidural stimulation," a procedure in which "a patient undergoes intense therapy before a stimulator is implanted along the spinal cord to help restore movement," according to WCCO-TV. The study is one that Jack tells the Daily Trojan is already "yielding results" for patients like Jered Chinnock, who we introduced you to back in June.

For Jered, the first time the stimulator was turned on "was almost mind-blowing," as he tells Mayo Clinic News Network. "Right away I was able to move my toes." Other milestones quickly followed, as Jered "was able to control his muscles while lying on his side, make steplike motions while lying on his side and standing with partial support, and stand independently using his arms on support bars for balance."

And that, Jack tells WCCO, shows the treatment's potential. "It truly shows that this is something to be reckoned with because there are results that are improving people's lives," he says. "Is it going to get you back on your feet? It's showing that you can. Whether that's the end result, the most important thing is that it's improving our lives."

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Tags: clinical research, Innovation, Research News, Spinal Cord Injury

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