Tune in at 6:10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 8, as Luther College junior Chris Norton throws out the first pitch for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins vs. Indians game will air on Minnesota Fox Sports North; you can also live stream the game through subscription at mlb.tv.
Norton, of Altoona, Iowa, was nominated for the honor by Mayo Clinic of
Rochester, Minn., where he spent seven months in therapy following a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed in 2010.
The former Norse defensive back sustained the injury while making a tackle
on a kickoff during an Oct. 16 game. Doctors estimated his chances of ever regaining movement below his neck at just 3 percent.
Owing to a fierce resolve and rigorous physical therapy—five hours per
day—Norton has already far surpassed those expectations. He recently stood on his own for more than seven minutes, and he is able to walk with assistance.
Norton tries to keep therapy interesting by incorporating some nontraditional techniques: he studies while hooked up to muscle stimulators, and he plays Wii games to help develop hand and wrist coordination.
About his progress, Norton says, “It’s obviously a lot slower than I want it to be, but I can’t complain. I’m still seeing steady progress; it hasn’t tapered off at all.
It’s actually really encouraging, noticing different things every day in terms of where I’m at compared with a couple of months ago.” Norton’s ultimate goal is to walk on his own and to become functionally independent.
Because Norton’s injury occurred during an NCAA game, he was entitled
to the association’s high-risk insurance policy, which has covered the cost of his therapy equipment. Noticing that his friends with similar injuries aren’t afforded the same tools by their insurance policies, Norton was moved to start a foundation that will provide therapy equipment to people with various levels of neuromuscular deficiencies.
“I want everyone to have a chance at the same recovery story,” Norton
says. His foundation, called SCI CAN (SCI stands for “spinal cord injury,” and CAN for “Christopher Anderson Norton”), will hold a fundraising bike/walk event along the Trout Run Trail in Decorah, Iowa, on Sunday, Sept. 30. To learn more, visit http://scicanfoundation.com.
In the meantime, Norton will be practicing his pitch. “With the whole injury
process, each day can be different in terms of how I’m throwing the ball. Honestly, I’m just worried about getting the ball somewhat toward the catcher,” he jokes, “and I hope the fans in the bleachers won’t be too hard on me.”