Dallas has had more than its fair share of notorious professional athletes. Stories of late night mayhem featuring high profile sports figures are all too common, to the point where fans have joked about having difficulty telling the difference between the sports page and the police blotter.
Ryan Hollingshead, who plays professional soccer for the Major League Soccer franchise FC Dallas, is the antithesis of this “party hardy” model of pro athlete. This became painfully obvious on the icy night of January 6, 2017, when his neck was broken while he was rendering aid to a complete stranger.
Hollingshead and his wife Taylor were out on the frozen highways of North Texas in route to help one of their friends, who was one of hundreds of people who lost control of their vehicles during this ice storm.
According to an emotional article written about the accident by Jeff Miller of ESPN.com Ryan and Taylor were on their way to help their friend, when they noticed another vehicle, a Camry, had crashed into a guardrail on the highway. Miller picks up the story. “The Camry was driven by Abiodun “Abby” Shuaib, a native Nigerian who has lived in the Dallas area for two years with little experience driving on icy roads. His sliding car first struck the outside guard rail, then skidded across the highway and struck the median.
“Hollingshead pulled over about 50 yards beyond the Camry. Another Good Samaritan, John McDonald of Wylie, Texas, did the same thing soon after.
“They discovered Shuaib had suffered only minor injuries. But within seconds, a Dodge Dart driven by an 18-year-old woman likewise lost control and came bearing down on the three men who stood near the Camry.
“The Dart struck Hollingshead and McDonald, barely missed Shuaib, and then crashed into the Camry. Hollingshead said he’d caught sight of the oncoming car’s headlights at the last second, turned his back to the vehicle and jumped. That resulted in him essentially being punted off the hood and windshield. The impact literally knocked him out of his shoes.”
As he lay on the ground, Hollingshead was unable to move his arms, and he was certain that he was paralyzed. A trip to the emergency room and a CAT scan proved this fear to be false. This talented athlete would be on the field again, assuming he could successfully manage the rehabilitation.
The Prognosis Was Good
Dr. Michael Hisey is a spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute, and he is also the spine specialist for FC Dallas. He said, “In addition to being a hero, Ryan Hollingshead is a very lucky man. The fractures to his C2, C6 and C7 vertebrae didn’t require surgery because the adjoining ligaments weren’t torn. It’s relatively uncommon to have multiple neck fractures that don’t require surgery.”
As Miller’s article noted, Dr. Hisey examined Hollingshead soon after the accident and “expressed optimism about playing again, but provided no guarantee. He prescribed a cervical collar to wear for six weeks and to perform exercises to keep the rest of Hollingshead’s body in shape—riding a stationary bike and using a special support treadmill that lifted him and minimized jolting.”
After months of sometimes painful rehabilitation and intense conditioning, Hollingshead was able to join his teammates in their pursuit of the MLS championship in the 2017 season. He is the starting Midfielder and able to perform at top speed.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Ryan Hollingshead is a deeply religious man. The depth of his faith was revealed when before his first year in professional soccer he chose to take a year off from the sport to help his brother Scott start his new church in Granite Bay, California. Because of this faith, he no doubt appreciates the similarities of his tragedy and the biblical parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10 – 25 – 37).
In the story, a traveler is beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road. After two other travelers ignore the man’s plight, a Samaritan, who is a complete stranger to the victim, stops to help and brings him to safety.
Some professional athletes bristle at suggestion that, whether they accept it or not, they are role models for their fans. With his actions, Ryan Hollingshead shows what an excellent role model his and his teammates and coaches share that attitude. “The most important thing is that we all feel blessed to have him alive,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said.
If you or someone you love has experienced an accident that resulted in spinal injuries, contact us for an appointment.