Injured junior hockey player gets rare medical procedure

By Lena Blietz

The parents of Matt Olson, a junior hockey player from Minnesota, gave an update on their son’s condition after he suffered a fall that left him paralyzed in February. And his doctor said Olson has undergone a first-in-America treatment.

Olson is a defenseman and co-captain for the Chicago Cougars, a Tier 3 USA Hockey Junior team.

Olson caught an edge of his skate during the final game of the season on Feb. 21 and crashed into the end boards at the rink in the Sears Centre. The fall resulted in Olson being paralyzed from the chest down.

His doctors say Olson did not suffer any head injuries, and can mouth words and move his neck. But he needs a ventilator to breathe, and currently does not have the use of his arms.

Dr. John Ruge, who performed surgery on Olson at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, explained that it was initially feared that Olson’s spinal cord had severed, but it actually was just compressed. Ruge said Olson had a seven hour operation, where one broken vertebrae was removed.

Olson is also undergoing a treatment involving adult-derived stem cells, and is the first person in the country to receive the procedure, Ruge said.

Junior hockey player Matt Olson was paralyzed from the chest down after a fall on Feb. 21. (Courtesy of the Olson family)