Gina ‘Gyna’ Rice’s neck hyperflexion injury

The fall of 2013 or ’14, I sustained a neck hyperflexion injury, which means bent forward, chin to chest. While playing for my old team, the Menagerie, we faced off in a friendly scrimmage against my current team today, the Valkyries. For the Menagerie, I tackled one of the Valkyries’ props, but I was tired, and I am petite for a rugby player, no less against a prop, so instead of driving her backward, because I wasn’t sure I could, I pulled her on top of me.

Somehow, I got hunched over and she landed on the back of my head and neck, bending them both forward farther than their natural range of motion. My neck and back muscles sustained tears, a lot of vertebrae cracked, and with each one I was afraid the next one would kill or paralyze me. I yelled out from underneath her and somehow I was released.

gina rice - neck hyperflexion injury


Position: Flanker or Center
Club: MN Menagerie
Injury: Neck Hyperflexion injury

How It Felt

I stayed still laying on my back to see if I could feel all my fingers and toes. I shouldn’t have gotten up, but I did and almost went back in the game before I thought better of it. My teammate, “Doc,” a real MD, briefly examined me, but it wasn’t her area of practice. Obviously, she thought I should have the right doctor examine me, but unfortunately, I did not have health insurance at that time. Although I was CIPP’d, I was uneducated about what that meant and that I could’ve used that for insurance.

Coverage and Medical Attention

For that reason, I failed to see a doctor until after I continued playing rugby and dance-partying all they way through Las Vegas 7s in March of the following year. The pain became unbearable and I cried/tried to sleep it off at the airport, penniless because it was the end of my trip to Las Vegas, so I was too poor to even buy ibuprofen! (Worth it.)

Sponsor To The Rescue

I finally saw the Menagerie’s sponsor, Specific Family Chiropractic in Maplewood, MN, where they took the x-rays I included here. While I cannot decipher the x-rays, I was informed that some disc(s) is/are compressed, which causes disc dehydration and deterioration over time, and the tears I didn’t know existed in my neck and back muscles likely scarred. I got my body cracked and massaged twice a week at first. This year I only went once every three weeks. It’s a long road to recovery, especially when you continue to play rugby and don’t follow the treatment plan to the T!

It was my responsibility to look out for myself, but I also want to encourage coaches, captains, and teammates to watch out for the players they know will play to the death for the team. Those players will break down faster and have shorter careers than if others share their knowledge and experience to caution young, fearless players to take proper care of their bodies, regardless of whether the roster is short.

Lessons For Everyone

Although I have enjoyed a few more years of rugby, my neck and back pain are chronic. I want to share with young, passionate players the following:

  1. Tackle better! This story is why we are coached NOT to pull ball-carriers on top of ourselves.
  2. Take care of your bodies for a long, happy, and healthy rugby career.
  3. Have insurance and educate yourself on the insurance benefits of CIPP’ing.
  4. Look out for your mates. The ones with a lot of gusto are just as breakable as anyone. It seems to be contact-sport culture to guilt athletes into playing in poor medical condition. I hear the movie, “Concussion,” is a good one.

I am taking this fall of ’17 off due to repeat cellulitis and abscesses in my legs from deep bruising on the pitch, which is not normal. However, if my doctors can identify the root of that problem and treat it, I’ll be back for my 10th anniversary of rugby next year. 🙂

I love you RuckScience!

By, Gina “Gyna” R.

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