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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rugby player Jacob Hansen continues to grow sport after severe injury

July 15, 2021 Updated Thu., July 15, 2021 at 9:28 p.m.

By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

The main anatomy of the knee consists of the sciatic nerve, the popliteal artery and four ligaments.

Imagine severing all of those as the knee dislocates out of its socket.

Jacob Hansen of Newman Lake suffered this traumatic injury while playing rugby on April 18, 2018.

Hansen originally began his rugby career at the University of Western Oregon in 2011. His passion was found.

In seven years, Hansen had never so much as sprained an ankle while playing rugby. He was the stereotypical ironman in a sport that is aggressive in nature.

But just over three years ago, Hansen was in Missoula, playing for the Coeur d’Alene Osprey in a tournament.

In the first game of the tournament, Hansen had the ball with two defenders in his way.

He describes his play style as confident, so his goal was to run over the two men standing between him and the try zone (end zone).

As he reached the point of contact, Hansen was tackled low – yet clean – right on his knee.

Hansen’s knee bent like a flamingo’s as his toes almost touched his quadricep.

His leg was reset by a nurse who was on the team and he was sent to a hospital in Missoula.

The severed artery filled his lower leg with blood and led to his calf to balloon to a size larger than his thigh – a condition called compartment syndrome – before a vascular surgeon patched the artery and released the pressure in his calf.

He was transferred to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center where all his ligaments were replaced with cadaver ligaments.

Nine surgeries over 13 months were performed to help reverse the severe damage and prep for the next steps.

St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Medical Center helped with his rehab during the process, but the results never reached a point that allowed Hansen or the doctors to be thrilled with the progress.

After discussing all of the available options, Hansen and his team decided that in order for him to have the most active and productive life, amputation was the best option.

Surgery 10 was amputation below the knee of Hansen’s left leg on July 3, 2019. Hansen watched Independence Day fireworks from his hospital bed the next day.

The holiday wasn’t the only event that was taken from Hansen. He missed his daughter’s first birthday and his previously scheduled wedding while he was in the hospital.

From that moment, Hansen made sure that his prosthetic wouldn’t interfere with his life or his goals and aspirations.

“I’ve done so many things that I didn’t even do before (the injury),” Hansen said. “Just because I really want to prove to myself that I can do that. I’m training for a triathlon this summer. I would never do that before. Not much of a runner. I’ve been skateboarding, I’ve been snowboarding, riding my bike a lot. Originally, my goal was just to be able to play soccer in the backyard with my daughter. It has evolved to so much more than that. She’s really my biggest motivation.”

Hansen uses his platform to help advance and drive the lives of other athletes with physical challenges through the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF).

The CAF’s mission statement reads: “It is the mission of the CAF to provide opportunities and support to people with physical challenges, so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. The CAF believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.”

Hansen’s first opportunity to directly benefit the foundation is through a one-day men’s rugby tournament Saturday, starting at 8:30 a.m., at the Chase Sports Complex in Post Falls.

All proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the CAF.

The tournament is called the Kootenai 7’s, based on the location and the style of the tournament.

Normally, rugby is played 15 vs. 15. In recent years, 7 vs. 7 has been gaining popularity because of the increased action.

Saturday’s tournament will feature 10 teams from five states in a knockout-style playoff bracket. A single champion will be crowned at the end of the day.

A food truck and beer garden will be on site.

The goal is to bring high-level rugby to North Idaho and to shine a spotlight on an under-represented sport that is slowly gaining popularity in the area.

According to Hansen, there are three high school rugby teams in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area with a demand for more teams. A rugby-focused academy is being built in Liberty Lake and three pitches are being built in Statel ine.

As the tournament grows, the next steps will be to add youth clubs and women’s clubs as the interest expands to other demographics. Hansen has already secured a three-pitch venue next year, up from the single pitch venue this year


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