MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We are learning more about the paralyzing injury to a 20-year-old hockey player from Isanti.
Matt Olson, who played hockey for Totino-Grace High School, fell into the boards while playing junior hockey with the Chicago Cougars on Feb. 21.
Olson’s parents and neurologist gave an update on his condition during a news conference at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in suburban Chicago.
His dream of college hockey was rocked by a head-first fall into the boards. The team captain and defenseman was not checked, but rather his skate caught an edge in the ice behind the net.
“He will face these challenges with the same work ethic and tenacity that made him a great hockey player,” Sue Olson, his mother, said.
His parents and doctor spoke for the first time about the spinal cord injury and Olson’s long road towards recovery.
Olson is unable to move anything below his shoulders and is currently quadriplegic.
“Matt was coming close to realizing his dream of playing college hockey while he was here in Chicago, but all of that changed,” she said.
But the family is left with a glimmer of hope after doctors determined that Olson’s spinal cord is not severed, but severely pinched.
“His prognosis, it’s too early to tell,” Dr. John Ruge said.
Dr. Ruge says Olson’s spine was pinched, but not severed. He is hopeful the devastating injury responds to stem cell therapy, which may regenerate damaged nerves.
It marks the first time in the nation that a spinal cord patient has been given the experimental treatment to help regenerate the damaged area.
“It has shown promise in stroke patients, it’s never used before in spinal cord injured patients and this gives us some hope as well,” Dr. Ruge said.
Help and support are pouring in, much like what was seen with Jack Jablonski, who was paralyzed during a hockey game in 2011. Students at Olson’s high school signed a giant prayer and get-well card. And donations are pouring in from the wider hockey community.
Like he said on his Chicago Cougars player profile, calling “Miracle” his favorite hockey movie, Olson and his family now hope to make a miracle of their own.
“The best way to support my son Matt and our family now is through your prayers,” Doug Olson, his father, said.
Doctors say his recovery will be long and may cost millions of dollars. Friends and family have established a “Go Fund Me” page.
Donors have already contributed nearly $100,000 to help defray Olson’s mounting medical bills.