Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Kyle Peterson finds getaway in rugby

Young Barnum athlete excels in competitive sport for quadriplegics


Show Stopping Photography

Kyle Peterson, No. 6 for the Minnesota Steelheads Quad Rugby team, has found a getaway in the sport. Visit for more information.

In 2009, Kyle Peterson was 15 and spending the summer at his grandparents' home on Sand Lake, where he was close to his friends, Josh Cisar and the Gasserts.

Kyle's grandparents were Tom and Grace Peterson. Just a few years before, Tom had died suddenly of a heart attack.

Kyle took one more dive off the dock, something he had done often.

This time, he hit his head. Josh pulled him out of the water and he was brought to the house, where the family was just about to sit down for supper.

That was on July 4, 2009. Since then, Kyle has had to adapt to life in a wheelchair - he would never play hockey or football or drive a four-wheeler again.

But Kyle, now 21, has found a way to be active. He plays rugby with a team at the Courage Center in Golden Valley, and the team took second place in nationals last year.

Kyle remembers only some of the details of that fateful July 4.

"I can't remember some things," he said. "They escape me.

"They called the hospital and asked to send the ambulance," he recalled. "They took me to Mercy, and from there I was flown on the helicopter to St. Mary's Hospital. I was lying down so all I could see were the helicopter blades whirling overhead. That was cool."

Kyle said he was taken into surgery at St. Mary's.

"My C6 vertebrae was damaged and my C7 vertebrae was destroyed," he said. "They put in a titanium plate. My spinal cord was bruised but not severed. I'm paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Technically, I'm a quadriplegic."

The next step was rehabilitation.

"I was in the hospital less than a week when I was taken over to Miller Dwan for rehab," said Kyle. "That's where I spent the next two months."

Kyle continues to deal with his injury and resulting lifelong disability.

"It was tough," he said. "But I never had a breakdown. Probably the hardest time emotionally when I was in rehab was when I couldn't even lift my arms. I was lying in bed so I couldn't sit up. That period was scary."

Kyle's outlook improved as physical therapy progressed.

"For me, the tipping point was when I got to P. T. and I could lift my own weight with my arms. Being able to lift myself made life a lot easier. I knew that I would be able to transfer to chairs and to the car."

Learning to drive was on Kyle's to-do list before the accident.

"My accident happened a day or two before I was going to get my permit," he said. "If I had gotten my permit I would have been practicing. I was just about to turn 16."

Kyle sees an advantage in that the accident happened before he learned to drive.

"I didn't have to relearn how to drive after my accident," he said. "I later learned how to drive with hand controls. That made learning to drive with my hands a lot easier."

Kyle liked to golf, like his grandfather, and he played golf in high school.

But, since his accident, Kyle hasn't pursued golf or sled hockey.

"I looked into sled hockey," he said. "It is ruled by paraplegics (paralyzed from the waist down). Rugby was created by quadriplegics who couldn't play basketball."

Kyle drives to Golden Valley weekly, on Wednesdays and Sundays, from September through April to play with his team, the Minnesota Steelheads. The team is a member of the United States Quad Rugby Association.

"We have 12 players on a team," he explained. "Four players are on the court - a basketball court - at a time. Points are assigned to the abilities of the different players. Four players have to equal eight points."

Kyle explained he is a high functioning quadriplegic, rated a 2.5 points. He plays with another fellow rated at 3.5 and a third player rated at a .5, the lowest rating. The fourth player can have any rating.

"We got second in the nationals last year," said Kyle, with a smile. "We have the best players on the team. I hope that we can get first this year."

To compete, the team travels out of state once or twice a year. Tournament games will be played in San Diego and Phoenix this year, Kyle said. The sections will be played in February or March, and the nationals will take place in April.

"I exercise at home during the season," said Kyle. "I lift weights when I am ambitious. During the season I'm in a lot better shape."

Sponsorships are needed to fund the trips to the tournament cities. Some teams are sponsored by pro sports, such the Chicago Bears or St. Louis Rams.

"We aren't as lucky," said Kyle. "Our team holds fundraisers to earn the funds for entry fees. And we do demonstrations for physical therapy classes at the colleges for a fee. We also self-fund our hotel rooms, airfare and driving."

Players can also apply for grants available from the Challenge Athletes Fund, said Kyle.

Kyle has taken some college classes.

He took classes at Mankato State College for a while but found the campus was difficult to navigate in his wheelchair.

"I took classes for one semester at UMD," Kyle added. "But gas was too expensive to drive to college and then to the Cities for rugby."

Paula Braaten

Kyle Peterson, No. 6 for the Minnesota Steelheads Quad Rugby team, enjoys the competition of the sport.

Kyle said he lives with his father in Barnum in the home where he grew up.

"That is nice," he said. "I don't make a lot of money. I don't have a job."

Future plans consist of more college, with training in computer software or hardware.

"I really like computers," said Kyle. "Every company needs a computer guy. I can see myself as one of the Geek Squad working at Best Buy."

But, for now, Kyle is focusing on playing rugby.

"I'm young, I've got lots of time," said Kyle. "As someone who played sports of a competitive nature, rugby is a good getaway. It's huge to have enough strength in my arms. I don't have a lot of core strength. People don't realize how much you use your ab muscles just to reach your hand out. You don't even think about things like that until you lose it."


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