We can all be a little more like Eric LeGrand. It’s been four years since the former Rutgers defensive tackle was paralyzed from the waist down during a football game, but he continues to keep a positive mindset and make progress. Where it used to take 20 minutes for him to get ready daily, it now takes upwards of two and a half hours with nurses’ assistance before just over three hours of therapy daily. LeGrand doesn’t complain. He does what he has to. Much of his journey was captured on the HBO documentary State of Play: Broken on Tuesday night. Post injury, LeGrand, 24, has kept close ties to football, joining Rutgers’ broadcast team, co-hosting a football-talk radio show every Monday night on Sirius and contributing to ESPN. Here, LeGrand speaks to BET.com about taking part in the HBO series, his ongoing therapy and progress, being an inspiration and advances in a possible cure for paralysis that have him excited.
BET.com: What was it like taking part in the HBO documentary?
Eric LeGrand: [State of Play executive producer] Peter Berg really wanted to get deep inside and see what this injury does to people and how they live with it. I was all for it. You see someone older with a family who’s going through this injury and then you get to see my version of someone who’s younger going through this injury and how things play out and how a sudden change can affect someone’s life so drastically. This injury…doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anybody.
Where are you at right now in terms of progress in your movement?
I have a lot more trunk control now. In the beginning, I could barely even turn my head from left to right to, in January 2011, being able to move my shoulders a little bit to now having full control of my shoulders. I get twitches in my fingers every now and then, which is pretty cool to see. I have lot more upper-body movement now. I don’t have movement in my arms or anything, but I have a lot more movement [than I did]. Things have been great for me.
Has the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation made advances that you’re excited about?
The same goals they have is the same goals I have — to find a cure for paralysis, but in the mean time, helping people go through this injury and helping their quality of life. Epidural stimulation…we have four people implanted and over the past four years, there’s [a] 100 percent success rate. Now, it’s raising $15 million to get these next 36 people implanted to see how this epidural stimulation can be and if it can be a 100 percent success rate again. I’m just very excited to see it happening.
How does it feel being an inspiration to so many people?
I kind of realized in life that you don’t have to be injured. Everyone has their own difficulties that they go through. Having the right mindset is where it all begins, not only with this injury. I try to tell people no matter how bad your situation is, there’s always somebody in a worse situation, so appreciate everything that you do have and don’t focus on the things that you don’t have or the negative stuff. That pertains to life, not just being paralyzed.
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(Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)