Matt Hampson: Where I used brawn, now I use my head

England player Matt Hampson, 23, was paralysed while training. He describes how he rebuilt his life
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The Independent Online

My life took a dramatic turn three-and-a-half years ago when I was injured during training with the England under-21 rugby team. I played for the Leicester Tigers and was an international prop forward; fulfiling my ambition of being a professional sportsman.

My injury left me paralysed from the neck down. I spent months in Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire. I am still paralysed from the neck down and use a ventilator to help me breathe, but I'm starting to regain feeling in one shoulder and can feed and dress myself. People in my situation have good and bad days, but the support I had from my family and friends was immense. It made me determined to continue my life with a positive outlook.

I eventually left hospital and moved into a specially-adapted barn conversion next to my parents' home in Rutland, Leicestershire, which my father built for me. My family life has continued as normal: my mother is a headteacher, my sister has qualified as a teacher and my younger brother has started a course at university.

My passion for rugby has never diminished, in fact it's probably stronger than it ever has been. The support I've had from the rugby community has been amazing, it is one big family and I'm proud to be part of it. I still watch the Leicester Tigers, in fact I'm probably one of their harshest critics. I write a column about them in the local sports paper each week. I also have a column in a rugby magazine where I get to interview one of the world's best players each month. I use a specially-adapted computer which allows me to use my forehead to type out the words on the screen. I still get out on the field when I get a chance to coach the first team at a boarding school. This is something which I love taking part in.

In the past I always used my brawn whereas now I like to think I use my brain a lot more.

I am proud and honoured to be a patron of SpecialEffect, a disability charity. It provides computer systems for disabled children, giving them a chance to interact and play games with friends. It is great to give something back and help those who lack support.

Life is busy and a lot of fun. I have my own website and memorabilia company and I'm in the process of writing a book with sports writer Paul Kimmage. I have regular physiotherapy sessions which are a great help. Although physically I'm not an athlete, mentally I always will be, and I need to be pushed.

I would say to others in my situation: keep strong and stay positive. Keep looking to the future and focus on what you can do rather than what you can't.