Brandon White - 2002 Landed in Box, Paralyzed

Discussion about ways to make the sport safer and discussion of past injuries so we can learn how to avoid them in the future.
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Brandon White - 2002 Landed in Box, Paralyzed

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Sun Dec 19, 2004 11:25 am

Wow I never even heard about this :eek: Does anyone else know anything about this guy?


http://www.thehour.com/284718144144225.bsp

Brandon White walks again

By LEE HIGGINS Hour Staff Writer WILTON -- Brandon White, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a pole vaulting accident a week before his 2002 graduation from Wilton High School, is walking again using leg braces and canes. White, 21, who refused to live in a wheelchair, has been enrolled since February 2003 in Sit Tall-Stand Tall, a rigorous strength-training program in Provo, Utah, for people with spinal cord injuries. On May 5, White put his wheelchair away. He's pledging to stay in the program until he gets rid of his leg braces, too. "I've come a long way. That's for sure," said White. "When I first got injured, I couldn't do anything. You're pretty much helpless. It's just good to feel normal again."

It was on June 15, 2002 that White's life changed dramatically. While warming up for a competition in the pole vault at the Junior Olympics at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, White went up for a practice jump, but fell short of the landing mat, dropping 12.5 feet onto a metal pole vault box, which pole vaulters use to launch from. He broke his back in three places. "It was horrible," said White. "It was just unbelievable. I never thought anything like that would have happened. It never would have crossed my mind. As soon as I landed, my legs just collapsed on top of me. I couldn't feel anything. One thing I was just yelling was, 'I can't feel my legs." White was treated for two weeks at Yale-New Haven Hospital, before going to Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, where he began rehabilitation. He was discharged five weeks later and began a regiment of outpatient physical therapy at Norwalk Hospital, where he recalls doing exercises to build his arm strength, so he could roll his wheelchair around. It wasn't for him. "That's not the type of therapy I wanted," he said. "I wanted to get out of my wheelchair." But there was little hope. White's mother, Shannon, explained that doctors and therapists had ruled out walking for White. "They told him that he would never walk again and to not even think about leg braces because his injury was so high (in his back) and he would never be able to use them," she said. The family prayed for a miracle, and White refused to give up.

He subsequently learned from his grandfather, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah about the Sit Tall-Stand Tall program, run by Leighton Weber, a physical trainer and former college football player. Since 1983, Weber, 49, has helped 300 physically disabled people improve their lives through weight training in a gym attached to his home in Provo. "It's just this kind of makeshift gym, and so much good comes out of it," said White. While White saw many of Weber's success stories standing before him during a December 2002 evaluation with Weber, he remained skeptical. "I didn't really believe it," said White. "I didn't really want to go. I didn't want to pack up and go to Utah. I just finally came to the realization if I wanted to walk, this is only place I've gott to go." So, in February 2003, White moved to Utah to enroll in the program, spending the first six months living in an apartment in Orem with his older sister, Andrea. Weber, whom White described as "drill-sargentesque," told White to get out of his wheelchair and crawl. "He really pushes you," said White. "He expects a certain amount out of you, and he'll do anything to get it. He'll motivate you. He'll yell at you. He'll get you going. If you're not motivated, you just won't last. You'll go back home." White spent 90 minutes to two hours a day, five days a week, drilling the muscles in his upper body in the gym. Within two weeks, he could crawl 10 to 15 feet. "It was mindblowing," said White. "I never thought I'd be able to do it and it worked. It was just pretty incredible." Within three weeks, White was crawling well. But the workouts took a toll. "I was so tired afterward," said White. "I'd come home and sleep all day long after each workout. I would be so sore. It was a whole new world." But White persisted.

After four months of crawling, Weber decided that White was ready for the next step: Standing up. White hadn't done it in a year, but he got some leg braces and canes and got to work. "It's frightening at first," he said. "You'd lose your balance. You'd fall to the ground." White fell often, breaking two ribs and snapping a titanium rod in his back. But he always got back up. By June 2003, a year after becoming a paraplegic, White could stand again. He frequently spent four to six hours at a time standing in his apartment. "I would stand just because I could," he said. White's mother recalled in June 2003, seeing White stand again when he was home for a visit. "The first time I saw him stand up, I had to leave the room because I started to cry," she said. "That was incredible." White and his family realized that at six feet, he was still tall. Soon White was taking steps, but it was a slow process. "My left side, it just took forever to get that down," he said. "I would walk 10 feet, and I would just be spent. I would be so tired, and I would just sleep all day." While White still has no feeling in his legs, he learned to lift them from his hip and move forward. "You kind of use your arms and upper body," he said. In May, White gave Weber the wheels from his wheelchair and put the frame of it in his closet.

He has since been walking full-time with leg braces and canes. "I didn't want to live in a wheelchair," he said. "I didn't care if it would take 15 years to get out of the wheelchair." White, who is coming home Saturday for Christmas break, explained that his next goal is to reduce the amount of leg braces he uses to walk and eventually walk without them. "However long it takes me, I'm in it for the long run," he said. White's mother, who explained that the Sit Tall-Stand Tall program is not covered by insurance, said she thinks her son has been doing marvelously. "Every time we see him, he's getting faster and better," she said. "Every little step he's taken has been like this little miracle."

White and his friend, Josh Francia, 23, also from Wilton, have been filming a documentary for the past 18 months on White's progress and that of two other young paraplegic men in the program. One of them is Matt Wyffels, 23, a professional snowboarder, who grew up in Minnesota and broke his back in a competition at Copper Mountain in Colorado. The other is Chris Weston, 20, who grew up in California and was paralyzed when doctors removed a cancerous tumor from his spine. Both, like White, are paraplegics. Weber calls them all "warriors." There are 15 warriors currently enrolled in the Sit Tall-Stand Tall program, and only the toughest make it through. Francia, a journalism major and film minor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where White has taken three courses, said the film is about "their desire and motivation to walk again and how they've been able to do it." Francia said he has visited Weber's gym and has seen people with spinal cord injuries walk again after doctors crushed their hopes. "When I first went and saw the gym and saw the guys working there, it almost takes your breath away," said Francia. "It makes me motivated to be better in my life." Francia and White have entered a short essay and 50-minute clip of the documentary in a contest sponsored by VISA, hoping they'll win $25,000 to help pay for the film. They're among 10 finalists out of 19,000 applicants and are optimistic about winning based on early voting results, according to Francia. Francia explained that the documentary will be polished up within four months and they hope to enter it into the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. "Our goal is to make it a national release so people all over can see this." Lee Higgins may be reached via e-mail at lhiggins@wiltonvillager.com.

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Unread postby OUvaulterUSAF » Sun Dec 19, 2004 8:24 pm

Did their box have a collar? or did he hit it just right?

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Re: Brandon White

Unread postby breaker » Sun Dec 19, 2004 9:40 pm

rainbowgirl28 wrote: "I would stand just because I could,"


wow, i never heard this story. thats amazing, it really makes me feel lucky. this guy is awesome, i admire him, what a guy.

i bet he'll walk one day without braces. wow.

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Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:24 am

OUvaulterUSAF wrote:Did their box have a collar? or did he hit it just right?


Probably not, that was before they were required.

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Unread postby VaultNinja » Mon Dec 20, 2004 1:55 pm

Thanks for sharing such an inspirational story Becca.
If someone tries to step on your dreams.... Step on their face.

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Unread postby JMP8928 » Mon Dec 20, 2004 3:17 pm

yeah, for sure... thats really amazing. :D

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Unread postby Mecham » Mon Dec 20, 2004 7:27 pm

Its always good to hear those. makes me want to work harder, ya know?
Just you wait...

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Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Mar 15, 2006 2:40 pm

I came across this old thread and noticed that there were never any stories posted about his accident (this board was not created until several months later).

I couldn't find the original source of this article, but here is a copy of an article that appeared at the time:

http://carecure.org/forum/showthread.ph ... nextnewest

Wilton pole-vaulter suffers spinal injury
By Kevin McCallum
Staff Writer

June 19, 2002

An 18-year-old Wilton High School pole-vaulter suffered serious spinal injuries Saturday when he missed the mat and landed on a concrete floor during a track-and-field competition in New Haven.

Brandon White, a college-bound senior set to graduate this weekend, was performing a practice jump at the Junior Olympics competition at Southern Connecticut State University when the accident occurred, said Doug Rubin, Wilton High's athletic director.

White underwent spinal surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital on Sunday and is listed in stable condition.

"It's a wait-and-see situation," Rubin said. "We're all hoping for the best."

Jeff Gee, coach of the Wilton High girls' track team, said he visited White and his family at the hospital Monday. Gee said he was unaware of the seriousness of White's injury until he was told the teenager was being treated in the hospital's neurological intensive-care unit.

Gee said White underwent six hours of surgery to stabilize the damaged area of his spine, fragments of which were pressing on his spinal cord. As of Monday, White had no feeling or movement in his legs, Gee said.

The competition was held indoors, and the runway distance for the pole vault was shorter than White was used to, Gee said. During one of White's practice jumps, his head landed on the edge of the 21Ž2-foot-thick pad, sending his back crashing to the floor at an awkward angle, Gee said.

Neither White nor his parents could be reached for comment yesterday.

A woman identifying herself as White's older sister requested the family not be contacted for several days.

"It's still too soon for us to say anything," she said.

Gee said he spoke with White's parents at the hospital and that they hope their son's condition will improve and his paralysis will not be permanent.

"Their attitude is they are extremely positive in terms of preparing Brandon for whatever problems he might have to face," Gee said.

School officials made an announcement Monday informing students of their classmate's injury, Rubin said. Several went to the hospital to express their support for their friend, Rubin said.

White's parents are trying to limit their son's visitors until they have a better sense of the seriousness of his injury, Rubin said.

"They're taking it day by day," he said.

White finished his official spring track season late last month at the state finals, Rubin said.

He finished fourth in the state, clearing 12 feet, 6 inches, according to a Web site with official results.

Gee, who has coached track at the school since 1986, said he can't recall a Wilton High track athlete suffering such a serious injury.

"The throwing events are probably more dangerous, like getting hit with a javelin or a disc, but obviously the high jump can be very dangerous, too," he said.

The state recently issued new safety regulations for the pole vault that expands the landing area, or pit, for high school events next year, Gee said.

Because White was competing at a university, there likely was a larger landing area than at high school competitions, Gee said.

Some pole-vaulting accidents have proved fatal.

Kevin Dare, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore, died in February after missing the mat and hitting his head on the steel casing where he planted his 16-foot fiberglass pole, according to The New York Times.

Brian Sternberg, a world-record pole-vaulter in the 1960s, is a quadriplegic because of an injury he suffered when he was 20, The Times reported.
Copyright © 2002, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

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Paralyzed pole vaulter wins lawsuit

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri May 15, 2009 11:16 am

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2009 ... illion.txt

Paralyzed pole vaulter wins lawsuit
Published: Friday, May 15, 2009




By Randall Beach, Register Staff


NEW HAVEN — A young Wilton man who was paralyzed from the chest down in 2002 while pole vaulting at Southern Connecticut State University has won $6.4 million in damages from the Connecticut affiliate of USA Track and Field.

Brandon White, 25, won the civil lawsuit this week from a six-member New Haven Superior Court jury.

The ruling came seven years after White, then a high school senior and a member of the Wilton High School boys’ track team, came to SCSU’s Moore Field House to compete in the USATF Junior Olympics Championships. SCSU was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

White’s attorney, John Wynne Jr. of New Haven, noted White sustained the injuries the week before his high school graduation. He attended the ceremony in a wheelchair.

After he arrived for the competition, White was told by USATF/CT representatives to warm up inside the field house, according to Wynne’s legal complaint.

“While attempting a warm-up maneuver after running down the runway of the pole vault area, the plaintiff fell and struck the plant box (the metal box where the pole is planted), causing him to sustain and suffer serious physical injuries and losses,” the writ said. White “violently struck his head and back on the vault box,” Wynne wrote. The teenager suffered a spinal cord injury, “resulting in complete paraplegia.”

Wynne said White was hurt because of the carelessness and/or negligence of the USATF/CT representatives who “failed to adequately supervise and monitor” the pole vaulting warm-ups and failed to inspect the area for safety.

Wynne specifically cited a baseball batting cage that obstructed part of the pole vault runway, and he said the runway was only about 105 feet long instead of 131 feet.

Eileen Becker of Wallingford, the defendant’s attorney, said, “We respectfully disagree with the jury’s decision on liability.” She believes the jury made its decision because, “He’s a likable young man and he suffered a catastrophic injury.”

Becker also said pole vaulting is “an inherently dangerous sport,” and added, “There was a problem with the plaintiff’s methodology” during the warm-ups. According to Becker, White didn’t do a proper test run before attempting his vault.

Wynne replied that the defense experts who testified during the three-week trial, including Jan Johnson, who won a bronze medal in pole vaulting for the U.S. during the 1972 Summer Olympics, use a different way to determine their starting points than White.

White said it has been “surreal” trying to mentally process the jury’s decision. Asked how he will use the damages money, White said, “I’ll just try to do everything I hoped I could do,” including moving into his own residence and attempting to make a living as a painter.

But White said the trial was a tough experience. “It was difficult re-living everything all over again, especially when I was on the witness stand, talking about ‘the day of’ and the damage, how it changed my life.”

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Re: Paralyzed pole vaulter wins lawsuit

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri May 15, 2009 11:22 am

Previous discussion about Brandon White: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3771

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Re: Paralyzed pole vaulter wins lawsuit

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri May 15, 2009 11:27 am

http://www.connpost.com/breakingnews/ci_12377223

Jury awards $6.4M for pole vaulting injuries

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Updated: 05/15/2009 08:40:22 AM EDT

NEW HAVEN -- A state jury has awarded $6.4 million to a Wilton man paralyzed from the chest down in 2002 while pole vaulting at Southern Connecticut State University.
The award to 25-year-old Brandon White is for his lawsuit against the Connecticut affiliate of USA Track and Field.
The New Haven jury verdict comes seven years after White was injured when he was a high school senior.
White had come to SCSU's Moore Field House to compete in the USATF Junior Olympics Championships. He suffered a spinal injury after hitting a metal box during a warmup.
A lawyer for the sports organization disagrees with the verdict, saying the jury sided with White because he is a likable young man who suffered a catastrophic injury.

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Re: Paralyzed pole vaulter wins lawsuit

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri May 15, 2009 12:07 pm

OK first of all, I am so sorry for Brandon and his family that this accident happened. Catastrophic pole vaulting injuries are always terrible for everyone involved, no matter who is at fault.

[edit: see later posts for a more clear story about what happened]


So who is to blame?

I get why the local USATF Association was the easy target. They are the ones with the liability insurance and it sounds like there was not an official watching him vault, so it was probably the easiest case to make. Unfortunately, this is misguided at best, and a blow to our sport.

First of all, as officials, we have no power to stop an accident like this from occurring! There is nothing in any rulebook that gives an official the power to disqualify a vaulter for being unsafe. I recently officiated a local invite where several boys were trying to kill themselves in warmups. When I pulled them in for the instructions, I yelled at them all for several minutes about it and told them to lower their grips and land in that square on the mat both for their own safety and to jump higher. It seemed to work, because they were safer when the bar went up.

But what I did not have the power to do was make them stop jumping. And with the meet that this accident occurred being a USATF Association Championships, there is no way an official would have tried to DQ a kid, because they don't have the power to.

So what if an official had been observing the warmups, what could they have done? An official is not a coach! If you are officiating at JOs or the like (and you're a real official, not just a coach they pulled in because they were shortstaffed), you are not supposed to be coaching the vaulters. An official would not have been expected to know what adjustments that vaulter needed to make, nor would they have had the authority to offer advice.

At best, if an official had been there, they could have moved the baseball cage if the athlete had requested. If it was really in the way, most vaulters would have just moved it themselves (if it was even movable).



I don't know anything about the knowledge level of this athlete at the time. The decisions he made led to his accident. However, I cannot completely fault a kid for making poor decisions when he has never been given the proper information in the first place. Who knows what kind of coaching he was getting at his high school. And it doesn't sound like his high school coach was at this meet. I think legally it would be tough to assign much liability to his high school coach since this occurred outside of the high school season.



If Brandon White and his family want to make a difference, and actually prevent an accident like this from happening again, suing is not the answer. But I shouldn't judge, maybe they needed the money to cover his medical expenses.

If they want to make a difference, any money that is leftover from this case should be used to promote coaching education in their local community. If they really need all of this money, Brandon could still go to camps and coaching clinics and talk to people and tell them, this is what happens when you grip too high and don't know what you are doing.

Perhaps Brandon was just the victim of our flawed coaching environment in the US. But these accidents are preventable by arming our coaches and athletes with the proper knowledge to vault safely.


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