In the 28 years since my own spinal cord injury, I have witnessed many individuals with such injuries go on to achieve remarkable things.
I have always believed that spinal cord injury is not the end of a life. It is more like the start of a new life. The recent story of a promising footballer who sustained a spinal cord injury that left him paralysed from the waist down at the age of 17 and who then went on to buy his former club, Worthing FC, really is touching.
After George Dowell was selected for the non-league side’s first team, the former right back was put forward for England school trials and appeared to be at the start of a promising career.
But in 2010, he was a passenger in a friend’s car when it veered off a dual-carriageway and crashed into a field. He cannot remember much about the accident itself but when he woke up, he was told that he had broken two vertebrae in his back and severed his spinal cord.
As a talented young footballer, being told you will never walk again let alone play football, must obviously be incredibly hard to deal with. Thankfully, in this case, with the help and support of his friends and family, Mr Dowell was determined such a life-changing injury wouldn’t get the better of him.
“I was devastated. It changed everything about my life but you’ve got to get on with it,” he said.
Despite his condition, he was adamant he wanted to remain involved in football and so bought a 75 per cent stake in the club he once played for. Although he is now Chairman of Worthing FC and one of the youngest football club owners in the world, the journey from his accident to buying his former club was far from easy.
During the 10 months he spent in hospital undergoing spinal cord injury rehabilitation, he and his friends discussed plans to start a football team upon his return home. Creating a team with his friends was just the beginning of his new involvement in football but when he discovered that the club he loved so much was struggling with debts of more than £200,000, he decided to act.
Mr Dowell had received a spinal cord injury compensation pay-out from the driver’s insurance company following his accident and after speaking to friends that he still had at the club, a meeting was arranged with the people in charge at the time and “it went from there really.”
The Isthmian League Division One South club’s debts have finally been paid off and it is now making a profit. Since taking over the club in April, Mr Dowell has overseen the installation of a state-of-the-art 3G pitch at the Woodside Road ground and set up a football development centre for under eights and under 16s. He now hopes he can help his club reach the Conference League.
There are around 40,000 people currently living with a spinal cord injury in the UK today. Incredibly, every eight hours one person’s life will change irrevocably due to a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injuries are most commonly caused by falls, sport injuries or road traffic accidents.
What George has achieved is remarkable as he has used his compensation settlement to rebuild his life. It demonstrates how important it is that somebody with such a life-changing injury investigates the possibility of a personal injury claim. We wish George and his team all the very best for the future.
Slater and Gordon are proud to be a Ruby Corporate Sponsor of the Spinal Injuries Association, the leading national charity for spinal cord injured people and their families.