Paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player moves legs after experimental surgery

‘It just blows me away,’ says his mother. ‘It made me just bawl’

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Former Humboldt Broncos forward Ryan Straschnitzki was told he’d never walk again. The ironic thing is, he’s one of the lucky ones. Straschn itzki, of course, is one of the 13 members of the Broncos who were involved in a fatal truck crash in April, 2018. The horrific accident claimed the life of 16 people and rocked the entire hockey world. 

Less than two years later and Straschn itzki has movement in his legs after a successful experimental spinal surgery in Thailand. CBC’s Joel Dryden reports that Straschn itzki nearly kicking his therapist and asked if he could hit the gym.

The 20-year-old from Airdrie, underwent the procedure in which doctors implanted an epidural stimulator in Straschnitzki’s spine in the hope that it could restore some movement in his legs. 

Check out this explanation, against courtesy of Joel Dryden:

With the use of a small device like a remote control, the implant sends electrical currents to the spinal cord to stimulate nerves and move his limbs, bypassing traditional pathways.

The implant can be programmed to stimulate certain nerves mapped out by surgeons and therapists.

In a video shared by his family on Twitter on Wednesday, Straschnitzki is seen lying on his back while doctors help him through the rehabilitation process after the surgery.

Here’s the video:


“It made me just bawl,” Straschnitzki’s mother Michelle said to CBC.

“He was as surprised as the rest of us, I think. It just blows me away,” she said, speaking from Calgary on Wednesday. “It’s all blowing me away, just his determination and stick-to-it-iveness. It shouldn’t be surprising anymore, but it really does knock the wind out of me.”

The procedure isn’t done by doctors in Canada and can cost upwards of $100,000 in the United States, but is significantly more affordable in Thailand. The Straschnitzki’s are hopeful that they can bring awareness to the procedure and ultimately bring it to Canada.

“It should have happened yesterday, in my opinion. But I think it’s a good start,” Michelle said. “Like everything else we’ve undertaken in these last 19 months, there are things that should have been in place long before this.”

“But if we can help other people in getting this medical technology and breakthroughs to come to Canada and other parts of the world that are closer, that’s the best we can hope for at the moment.”

Straschnitzki is expected to remain in Thailand recovering from the procedure until at least December.