Teen Hockey Player Jake Thibeault Vows to Walk Again After Injuring Spine During Match

A teenager who suffered a spinal cord injury in an ice hockey accident is fighting to walk again.

Jake Thibeault, an 18-year-old hockey player at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, has been recovering for more than four months after a hard collision during a match in September 2021 that left him with no feeling or movement below his sternum.

Thibeault was discharged from Spaulding Hospital but has continued to undergo therapy there as well as with the Journey Forward rehab group in order to help him regain movement and build back his strength.

Thibeault, who "used to throw 50 pound bales of hay for 10 hours a day with no problem," is now focussing on getting his legs moving again after recovering enough to sit up.

Initially, the teenager could not move anything below his sternum, but an update posted to Thibeault's GoFundMe fundraising page in early January this year stated that his condition had improved. It read: "So the core is there, the glutes are beginning to activate, some hip flexor movement being felt, and best of all leg movement!"

The hockey player is so determined to recover that he has been voluntarily exceeding his goals, pushing himself to do the "plank" exercise for a minute despite his therapists telling him to do it for 30 seconds.

Describing his drive to walk again, Thibeault said in a YouTube video posted by the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network: "The surgeon walked in, he was standing to my left, and I just asked him, 'am I gonna walk again?' and he said to me, 'your chances are low'. And I was like, 'I'm ready to fight.'"

In a GoFundMe update, Thibeault's father Michael said the support received by the family has helped push the teenager towards his goal, writing that "when times get tough he thinks of everyone pulling for him and knows he can't let all of you down. You help keep him moving forward!"

"Remember his body was his temple, a part of his identity," Thibeault's father added. "We can't comprehend the emotional impact of that being damaged or losing that identity. But we can take a step back to witness and appreciate this amazing young man going toe to toe with his injury to regain what he lost."

As of Thursday morning the fundraiser to help support Thibeault's care, titled "Jake Thibeault needs our support," had received nearly $500,000 of its $1 million goal. Money raised goes towards medical costs and rehabilitation.

"Our entire family want to thank all of you for your support during our nearly five months away from home," Thibeault's father wrote in an update.

Ice hockey
A stock photo shows the skates of a pair of ice hockey players during a match. Teenager Jake Thibeault was injured during a match and is fighting through rehabilitation. JohnAlexandr/Getty