In this file photo physiotherapists help Ryan Straschnitzki perform standing exercises following his epidural implant surgery at World Health Hospital in Nonthaburi, Thailand on Dec. 6, 2019. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In this file photo physiotherapists help Ryan Straschnitzki perform standing exercises following his epidural implant surgery at World Health Hospital in Nonthaburi, Thailand on Dec. 6, 2019. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

‘A work in progress’: Injured Broncos player continues rehab after lockdown

Ryan Straschnitzki waits for rinks to reopen

CALGARY — At first glance it appears that Ryan Straschnitzki, the former Humboldt Broncos hockey player paralyzed from the chest down two years ago in a Saskatchewan bus crash, is paying close attention to the black smartphone in his hand.

But on closer inspection it’s actually the remote controller for the epidural stimulator he had implanted during spinal surgery in Thailand last fall.

The device sends electrical currents to his spinal cord to stimulate nerves and move limbs. On the urging of his physiotherapy team Straschnitzki can kick out his legs — first the left and then the right.

He has had a lot of time to practise with the device while confined to his home in Airdrie, north of Calgary, during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“It’s still a work in progress but it’s getting better than it was,” Straschnitzki says.

Straschnitzki, 21, was hurt when a semi-trailer and the Broncos team bus collided at a rural intersection in Saskatchewan in April 2018. Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured. The truck driver pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Since the crash, Straschnitzki has made it his goal to make the national sledge team and eventually represent Canada at the Olympics. He was scheduled to be a member of Team Alberta at the national championships this spring.

That was before the pandemic hit.

“Not being on the ice for four months now is the hardest part for me. That was my escape and I used that for everything,” he says.

“The physical activity was a place to stress relieve, so it’s been tough and I’m just waiting for the rinks to open again.”

Straschnitzki says fortunately the epidural stimulator is mostly about muscle memory and all the programs he used before the pandemic are still intact.

He’s hoping to improve his range of motion throughout the summer.

“I want to get stronger, get more muscle contractions throughout my whole body and hopefully get more muscles moving that weren’t moving before,” he says.

Uyen Nguyen, executive director of the Synaptic Spinal Cord Injury and Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Calgary, says the time away hasn’t hurt Straschnitzki’s recovery.

“I think Ryan has done a lot on his own to maintain what he had gained when he was back and I’m hoping this will just be a slight bump in the road and he’ll be able to continue on without too much regression at all with his therapy,” she says.

“I think Ryan has done a great job in maintaining all his gains that it was just a few days of hurt and he’s back and ready to go.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2020.

hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy.’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake man charged with fraud totalling more than $100,000

Sylvan Lake RCMP have been investigating two companies owned by the same man since June 2019

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

Most Read