Paralysed rugby player learning to move again after life-changing accident

Wimbledon Guardian: Jack Fishwick before the accident Jack Fishwick before the accident

A rugby player who broke his neck in a match is learning to move again after he was paralysed on the pitch.

Jack Fishwick, a 26-year-old second rower for Wimbledon RFC, said he knew it was serious when he could not feel any pain as he was airlifted to hospital from the rugby pitch with life-changing injuries.

Jack, a keen surfer who has lived in Wimbledon for the past three years, had broken his neck and is now a tetraplegic, which means he is paralysed from the shoulders down.

He is now wheelchair-bound and remains in hospital where he is in physiotherapy every day to build up strength in his shoulders.

Jack is more used to treating musculo-skeletal injuries than being the one in therapy.

Having graduated from St Mary's University in Twickenham in 2010, he had been working as a sports injury rehabilitator and was seeing 20 to 40 patients a week at Wimbledon's Bounce gym and Bodymotion Chiropractic and Sports Injuries Clinic in central London.

Speaking from the gardens at specialist Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, Jack said: "I've had plenty of broken bones and torn ligaments which anyone will get in a rugby career, but this is a show-stopper.

"I was conscious when it happened.

"I received the ball from a re-start, I caught the ball, and a maul was formed.

"That went to ground and turned into a ruck.

"I was at the bottom and was awkwardly positioned.

"It collapsed on top of me."

He said it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and does not blame his Wimbledon RFC team-mates for what happened.

"I was unlucky," he said, adding that the club and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have been immensely supportive since the accident.

He has been overwhelmed by the support from family and friends, and welcomes visitors to his bedside every day. With friends from the club and the gym, he helps to cooks meals such as Spaghetti Bolognese in the shared kitchen on the ward.

After the accident near Haywards Heath in March this year, Jack was airlifted to Hurstwood Park Neurosciences Centre in Haywards Heath, a specialist hospital where he would spent the next seven weeks, mostly on a ventilator.

It became clear that he was paralysed from the shoulders down and is now gradually learning how to move again.

Jack said: "I was on my back for seven weeks.

"I had minimal movement in my arms at that point.

"When I got to Stoke Mandeville we explored what I could achieve.

"A shoulder shrug was the first thing.

"It was scary because it was the only thing I could manage.

"My brain thinks I can do everything.

"When I try it is another realisation of what I can’t do.

"I was so active it is a considerable difference."

Jack is being supported by the RFU’s Injured Players Foundation, and friends from Wimbledon RFC have organised a sevens tournament to raise money for his ongoing care.

He said: "I am so fortunate to have the amount of support I have had and I’d like to say how spectacular the club, my friends, family and the rugby community have been.

"There is so much good will and support, it is very over-whelming."

The Jack Fishwick Rugby sevens tournament will be held on Saturday, July 26, at Wimbledon RFC in Barham Road, Wimbledon, with a barbecue, family-friendly activities and live music.

Entry costs £5 for spectators.

Money raised will go to the Jack Fishwick Discretionary Trust Fund to pay for his ongoing care.

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