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Former high school lacrosse athlete gets second chance with wheelchair league

Rock Canyon's Zachary Sanders was paralyzed from the knees down two years ago. He's now back on the court with a Colorado adaptive lacrosse team.

AURORA, Colo. — Zachary Sanders' practice starts the same as it always did. He reaches into his bag and puts on his Colorado Mammoth-sponsored jersey, gloves, stick. Only now, two years later, he's rolling into the next phase of his lacrosse career.

"My injury is a traumatic brain injury," he said, as he sat in a wheelchair. "When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a lot of seizures and one day in science class, I fell over and hit my head on the concrete."

Sanders stood out on the Rock Canyon High School junior varsity lacrosse team through his sophomore year, until he was paralyzed from the knees down.

"I ended up losing feeling from the knees down on both legs bilaterally, and I could not walk anymore, I was wheelchair bound, I was bed-bound, and it was really hard not to be able to be out on the field playing lacrosse with my friends," he said.

Without constant activity, and without ideal articulation, Sanders felt lost.

Credit: Melissa Sanders

"It takes a really big toll on you to not be able to not be able to speak what's going on in your head," Sanders said. "It's just a trap, you're trapped inside of your own head with that kind of injury."

Soon after being fitted for his new wheels, he found his way out.

"Yeah, I never thought there would be life for me ever again. I thought I would be a vegetable," Sanders said. "It's really pushed me to be a part of a community, be a part of a team, make friends that get me, and really understand what's going on inside of my head and inside of my body."

When he takes the court for his wheelchair lacrosse league at the adaptive Wheel Park in Aurora, Colorado, he said there's no comparison to running onto the field two years ago.

"No, I feel like it feels better," he said. "It feels better than it does on the field because I worked to get where I'm at. I didn't work to get on [an able-bodied] team, I was just put on a team. Now, I work, I work, I work, and I get to play with the people I love, the people I really get along with and the people that get me and know me."

And how rewarding is that feeling?

"Very. It's a really rare thing to find in life."

Credit: Melissa Sanders

It's a lesson he hopes the next kid in his position won't have to reach to understand.

The Colorado Wheelchair Lacrosse League will host the national tournament at Wheel Park in Aurora on August 26 and 27.

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