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Dennis Swales was lucky to avoid paralysis after his goal celebration ended with a broken neck. The 27-year-old, the captain of Sunday League Catholic Club in Hartlepool in the UK, had just scored the winning goal for his side when he decided to slide along the ground in the style of former German star Jurgen Klinsmann.
But as he tried to plunge along a puddle, the celebration went horribly wrong. “In elation I ran towards the manager and out of the corner of my eye I saw a puddle. I did my Jurgen Klinsmann celebration, but instead of flying through the mud, I got my face stuck in the grass and my full body weight went through my neck. I cracked two vertebrae and had four damaged discs which have had to be replaced with plastic ones.”
Despite the severity of the injury, Swales will walk again, thanks to an operation at the University Hospital of North Tees after the accident six weeks ago. He will, however, need an estimated two years of physiotherapy and his days of amateur football are over.
“I’m devastated,” Swales said. “At 27 years old I am just hitting my prime. I was having the season of my life and that celebration took it all away from me. I have done it so many times before, when it’s raining everyone loves a slide in the mud. It was a freak accident.”
But Swales, who has a young family, expressed his relief that the accident did not have more serious consequences. “I have a second chance in life,” he said. “I have to make the most of it.”