When Nick Aguayo took the field for a game on September 28 as the quartback for the Wilson Wildcats, he could have never expected that doctors would tell him just hours later that he would never play sports again.
After an opposing player smashed into him in the second quarter of the game, Aguayo — a senior at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, California — wasn’t able to get back up, according to KTLA.
“I got blindsided, drove me straight to ground, and all I remember was, I felt the shock in the back of the neck,” Aguayo told the news station. “I was envisioning myself trying to get up, but it was just all one side. My right side of my body just gave out on me.”
Aguayo was rushed to Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, where doctors discovered he had suffered damage to his spine.
Then came the news that would change the course of the teenager’s life.
“I never try to think of anything negative,” Aguayo told KTLA. “It sucked because they did tell me that most likely I’m never going to be able to play sports again.”
Doctors said Aguayo’s had experienced spinal shock, a syndrome that occurs following injury to the spinal cord. Fortunately, with treatment, most patients can recover over time.
As of today, the right side of Aguayo’s body paralyzed but he has regained some feeling. He hopes to one day walk again.
However, the challenges Aguayo now faces are not just limited to his physical difficulties — because of the injury, he has lost college sports scholarships, he told the outlet.
Football has come under increased scrutiny over recent years due to the devastating effects it can have on players. Like Aguayo, one hit can have life-long consequences, such as in the case of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who experienced a spinal contusion after taking a hit in December and entered months of rehab to finally walk on his own again.
Additionally, players are also at risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a devastating brain condition caused by repeated hits during games.
Aguayo told KTLA that he would like to become an advocate for safety changes within the California Interscholastic Federation, which is the governing body for high school sports in the state.
The player that dealt the devastating hit has visited Aguayo during his recovery, and Aguayo said he holds no anger toward him.