Noblesville teen with rare spinal injury has goal to walk again, play lacrosse

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A Noblesville High School lacrosse player is training to get back in the game after suffering a rare spinal injury.

Doctors told 17-year-old Griffin Smith he would likely be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

“I just thought I had back pains, and so I went and sat down and my back started aching and getting worse, and the pain traveled through my whole body but as soon as my back really started hurting. I was like, yeah, this isn’t right,” said Smith.

After four days in a hospital bed with few answers, doctors eventually told Smith they believe he suffered a spinal stroke, but the cause still remains a mystery.

“Some doctors say it’s this and some doctors say it’s that, but it’s one of those things that’s one in a million and you never really know the main cause,” said Smith.

He’s now been in a wheelchair for two months, but he’s not letting himself get too comfortable. Smith is already able to walk with crutches, something doctors didn’t think would be possible.

“I just kind of shook my head like you’re not right because I knew I would work hard enough to be able to not be in a wheelchair because that’s not what any 17-year-old wants to do.”

The high school junior now has a goal to be back on the field by his senior season.

Long-time family friend Steve Whitehead is the reason Smith began playing lacrosse and because of how quickly he picked up the sport, Whitehead knows he will get there again.

“It’s one of those things where I’d be lying in the back of my head if there weren’t times I thought he would be in a wheelchair the rest of his life, but every time I see him I think, eh, I think I’m wrong about that,” said Whitehead.

Since Smith’s injury, Whitehead has helped set up several fundraisers in his honor. The next one is a golf outing on Oct. 15 at the Pebble Brook Golf Course in Noblesville.