An Olympic ice hockey player says she may have to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair after falling and crashing into a goal post head-first during a match.
Finnish player Sanni Hakala, 26, is paralysed from the chest down after suffering severe neck injuries while playing for her Swedish club HV71 in an ice hockey game against Djurgården IF on 24 November.
Yesterday, she said on social media she has reduced function in her arms and hands.
“It is still hard to understand what has happened, that the crash into the goal post was as serious as it was, that the consequences have become so big,” she said.
“Not only that I am forced to stop playing hockey, something that has been a big part of my life for many years, but that I may be forced to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.”
Born on Halloween in 1997, the hockey player was on boys’ teams until she was 15, at which point she signed with JYP Jyväskylä in the Naisten SM-sarja, the top flight of Finnish women’s hockey.
In November 2016, she left Finland to sign with HV71 – based in Jönköping – in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League.
She scored one goal in six games as Finland won bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and scored one in seven at the 2022 competition.
Hakala made her senior international debut at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championship and has been on the team every year since.
She was also part of Finland’s first-ever silver medal at the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
In her statement, Hakala said: “I understand that I am now facing a long and hard fight with my body and the toughest game of my life.
“This situation obviously sucks but I’m not scared to take it on.”
HV71 has not commented on Hakala’s injuries, but said in support: “Come on Sanni! You are forever our captain!”
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Hakala’s injury comes after recent negative headlines for her sport.
A man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter last month following the death of professional ice hockey player Adam Johnson.
Johnson, 29, was seriously injured during a Challenge Cup match between his Nottingham Panthers team and Sheffield Steelers on 28 October.
The American’s neck was cut by the skate blade of another player on the ice in Sheffield and he was later pronounced dead in hospital.