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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Sporting Back to Life

Tom Hernon and son

Tom Hernon and son

By: Janelle LoBello

Name: Tom Hernon
Injury: T-10 Incomplete
Mechanism of injury: Dirt biking accident
Date of injury: October 1997

In October 1997, a dirt biking accident left Tom Hernon, now 45, paralyzed from the waist down, but it strengthened his optimistic attitude.

"Attitude – it is what you make of it," says Hernon. "I believe I find opportunity to make my own opportunity."

A long year of rehab helped prepare Hernon for his future when he moved to Park City, Utah to pursue adaptive skiing with his son, Thomas III. "I was lucky," explains Hernon, a single parent. "I had resources when I got hurt, and I was really lucky to have my son."

A year after his accident, Hernon developed Back 2 Sports, a company dedicated to helping others with spinal cord injury get "back to life" by participating in sporting activities and the outdoors.

Tom Hernon

Hernon competing in the luge.

An avid skier, Hernon continued to participate in skiing even after his accident. Hernon was an adaptive World Cup ski racer from 1999-2004 and became the first adaptive luge athlete in 2003 - placing 4th in the Utah Winter Games racing against able-bodied athletes that year. Hernon is currently working toward making luge a paralympic sport. Hernon was nominated for the SCI Hall of Fame in 2006.

Among all of his sporting accomplishments, Hernon is also a motivational speaker and advocate for those in wheelchairs. "I try to let people know, if there’s a will, there’s a way," says Hernon.

He offers sports clinics in kayaking, fishing, cross country sit skiing, downhill sit skiing, adaptive luge, and wheeled adaptive street luge.

Tom Hernon

Hernon on sit ski.

His website, back2sports.net, features custom-made adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair that replaces wheels for skis in the snow. "Instead of making the world accessible," says Hernon, "we make things that get through the world."

Learn more
Learn more about sports and competitions in our Paralysis Resource Center.

Want to see some athletes in action? Check out these videos from the Paralysis Resource Center about skiing, skydiving, and surfing!

Visit the Fitness and Nutrition Center.


Tell us your story
Telling your story is one way to let anyone touched by paralysis know that they are not alone. We've created a place where you can share your journey for your benefit, and the benefit of others. Your story matters. Share it.

The Adaptive Sports Center (ASC)A non-profit organization located in Colorado that provides year-round recreation activities for people with disabilities and their families.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Golf for People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Sports and Competition (PDF)

American Association of AdaptedSportWorks to enhance the health, independence and self-sufficiency of youths with physical disabilities by facilitating adapted sports programs in local communities, in cooperation with schools, parks and recreation, YMCA/YWCAs, hospitals, parents and other groups.

Blaze Sports501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that advances the lives of youth and adults with physical disability through sport and healthy lifestyles. BlazeSports provides sports training, competitions, summer camps and other sports and recreational opportunities for youth and adults with spinal cord injury, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, visual impairment or blindness as well as other physical disabilities.

Disabled Sports USAOffers nationwide sports rehabilitation programs to anyone with a permanent physical disability. Activities include winter skiing, water sports, summer and winter competitions, fitness and special sports events. DSUSA, as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, is the governing body for winter sports for all athletes with disabilities, and for summer sports for amputee athletes. Nationwide chapter network of sports and rec programs.

The Handicapped Scuba AssociationPromotes the physical and social well being of people with disabilities through the exhilarating sport of scuba diving.

Hand CyclingWhether for fitness, serious competition, or pure recreation, here's a sport that can be enjoyed by many and provide quite the "ride" at the same time.

International Paralympic CommitteeThe International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions.

Life Rolls OnLRO is the story of able-bodied individuals, working in concert with those with spinal cord injury, to motivate each other with the inspirational message of achievement in the face of extreme adversity. Life Rolls On utilizes action sports through our flagship program, They Will Surf Again, which pushes the boundary of possibility for those with spinal cord injury (SCI).

National Wheelchair Basketball AssociationBasketball is perhaps the oldest organized sport for athletes in wheelchairs. The game is fast and fun, and played in dozens of cities across the U.S.

The National Center on AccessibilityNSCD provides recreation for children and adults with disabilities. In addition to recreational downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, NSCD provides year-round competition training to ski racers with disabilities. Summer recreation opportunities include biking, hiking, in-line skating, sailing, therapeutic horseback riding, white water rafting, baseball, fishing, rock climbing for the blind, and camping.

Quad RugbyFormerly known as murderball, Quad Rugby is a game for quads who can push a chair. Fast, rough and very competitive.

The United States Tennis AssociationTennis has been adapted for the wheelchair player: the ball can bounce two times. This allows chair-players to give standup players a run for the their money. The sport is growing fast and is very competitive at the elite level. Click on "community tennis."

U.S. ParalympicsA division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, it is dedicated to becoming the world leader in the Paralympic sports movement and promoting excellence in the lives of people with physical disabilities through education, sports programs and partnerships with community organizations, medical facilities and government agencies.

World T.E.A.M. SportsUnites people with and without disabilities through unique athletic events taking place all over the world.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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Paralysis Resource Guide

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.