Ben Stevens: Back to Competitive Sports
At age 15, Ben Stevens of Bellefontaine was quite the athlete. He had raced motocross since he was four years old and was now a wrestler, football player, and runner in high school. Still an avid motocross racer, he was ranked 10th in the nation.
In 1991, a track meet changed his life forever. The third jump of a triple jump went wrong and Ben cracked the fifth and sixth vertebrae in his neck and did severe damage to his spinal cord. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, four out of five spinal cord injuries happen to males between ages 16 and 30. Eight percent of all spinal cord injuries are sport related.
Ben was taken to Strouder Memorial Hospital in Troy, where physicians determined that he needed Level One Trauma care. CareFlight took him to MVH Orthopedic Center where he spent the next 100 days on the long road to recovery.
The interdisciplinary team that treated Ben included orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, physiatrists, nurses, psychologists, dietitians, social workers, case managers, and therapists. Once his injuries were addressed and Ben was stable, therapy began immediately. MVH has long recognized that a key factor in recovery from spinal cord injuries is attitude. This is not just in the attitude of the patient and family but also in the attitude of the medical staff. Often these patients at first wish they hadn't survived. Many later learn to live fuller lives than before the injury.
Initially, Ben could not move or feel anything from the neck down. Gradually sensation and limited movement started to return. But therapy alone did not return function. Ben got to the point where he could walk with braces, but the effort and pain was so great it was decided that it was doing too much damage to the rest of his body. The team decided that strengthening Ben's upper body would be the most benefit to him. Surgeons removed tendons from Ben's wrist and attached them to his fingers. Tendons from his posterior deltoid were moved to his triceps. This allowed Ben to develop a lot more serious arm power than his neural system was permitting.
In addition to enrolling at Wright State to earn a degree in mechanical engineering, Ben went back into competitive sports. He is very serious about wheelchair racing and plays in the quad rugby circuit.