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Prayers for Jack Jablonski

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Everything I do today will be overshadowed by concern for a young raising star hockey player, Jack Jablonski, and the struggle he is going through days after suffering partial paralysis from a severed spinal cord when he slammed head first into the boards when he was illegally checked from behind by two opposing players during a holiday tournament in Minnesota.

As parents we always hope such an injury won't happen to our own children, and when it does, it puts everything in perspective. Last night, Jack's parents posted a message on his CaringBridge wall last night after surgery with the caption "Never Give Up":

It is with a heavy heart that we write this entry tonight. Jack's surgery today to fuse his vertebrae was a success, but it also confirmed that his injury was horrific.
Jack has limited mobility and no movement in his lower body. As we feared, he will not be able to walk or skate. This news is devastating to Jack and everyone who loves him. Our hope and dream is that he will be able to prove this prognosis wrong.
Our priority is to help Jack accept and transition into his new life, a life that we did not plan, but one that we have to embrace. We have a mountain to climb, but with your support, we know that Jack's youth, strength and determination will help him make remarkable strides.
It's been a difficult day, but now we know what lies ahead. Words cannot express our gratitude for the global support that Jack has received. Keep your thoughts and prayers coming." 

The outpouring of support for Jack on Facebook, Twitter, and in blog post like this one, has been heartwarming.  Typical was this Tweet:

"Pray_for_JABS #JABS no more STOP patch on the back of hockey jerseys. There needs to be a #JABS patch for the players to rethink their actions on the ice!"

As parents, whether it be sitting in the stands or before going to sleep at night, the worry that our child will suffer a catastrophic injury like Jack's playing sports is always there; most of the time all we can do is hope and pray that our children will be kept out of harm's way. A parent's worst nightmare has come true, unfortunately, for the Jablonskis.

An injury like Jack's will no doubt be discussed in locker rooms and at kitchen tables around the country. Could it have been prevented? Were the players who hit Jack from behind trying to intentionally knock him out of the game? What can be done about checks into the boards from behind of the kind that left Jack paralyzed? 

"It wasn't a booming hit," Wayzata (Minn.) JV coach Duke Johnson told the Minnesota Star Tribune. "Was it a check from behind? Yes. Did our kid take eight strides and then hit him? No."

We will probably never know what was in the minds of the players who hit Jack Jablonski.  What we do know is that, while accidents happen in any sport, injuries like Jack's provide the opportunity to re-visit, once again, the question of injury prevention in youth sports, to do some real soul-searching about ways to make sports safer. 

In hockey, perhaps it means stiffer penalties for hits from behind, especially along the boards, where the injury such a hit can cause can be catastrophic. Only if we think long and hard about ways to make hockey safer will Jack's injury be more than a tragedy for him, his family, his teammates, friends, and community. Only then will we make sports for our kids as safe as it can be.