Quadriplegic athlete warns Quebecers to be safe in the water

·2 min read

Former Vert et Or football player Dominic Frappier is back home in Sherbrooke after 13 months of rehabilitation in Montreal, and is urging Quebecers to avoid diving.

Frappier was celebrating finishing his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from l'Université de Sherbrooke in June of 2019 when he dove off a dock and fractured his C5 and C6 vertebrae.

"When I dove, I felt my legs shut off, so I pushed in the lake with my arms, with all the adrenaline that I had," he said.

Frappier's friends pulled him from the water, and he woke up in a Montreal hospital.

The 26-year-old said he's adjusting to a new normal, continuously getting stronger and more efficient at his day-to-day tasks, like getting from bed into his wheelchair, getting dressed and putting on his shoes.

Dominic Frappier/Facebook
Dominic Frappier/Facebook

"It's really hard to proceed and go through that," Frappier said. "But in the end I want to get better so I work hard and do a lot of rehab."

"After one year, I can do a lot of stuff I couldn't think of doing at the beginning," he said.

Frappier also underwent nerve transfer surgery.

Now, he's home and adapting with his parents as caregivers, and is glad to be reunited with his friends after the pandemic made visits impossible.

He has started rehabilitation in Sherbrooke, uses bands to strengthen his arms, exercises in the pool and wants to learn adapted cycling, track and rugby.

But mostly, he wants to tell people to be safe around the water, and to avoid diving.

Five young people were treated at Montreal's Sacré-Coeur hospital with spinal injuries from diving last month and all were paralyzed.

Montreal emergency physician Dr. Éric Piette said he believes the heat and deconfinement have people taking unnecessary risks.

"Be careful," he said. "Really, really careful, because it can change your life," Frappier said.

"If I can educate just one person so they avoid what I did, I have done my job."

Frappier has a degree in kinesiology, but is switching gears to study business after his injury, which he hopes to combine with his love of sports.

"My body does not work so well, but my head is good," he said.

The athlete's father, Alain Frappier, said he's proud of his son for being an optimist and working to make a difference in the world.