Skip to Content

Three People Who Overcame Birth Injuries to Attain Sporting Glory


Nearly 4 million babies are born in the United States each year. Of these, 7 out of every 1,000 infants are injured during the birthing process. This means each year 28,000 infants suffer injuries ranging from skin lacerations to hematomas, fractures, and nerve palsies. A birth injury occurs somewhere in America every 3 minutes. In addition, 10,000 babies born each year in the United States develop congenital cerebral palsy.

How a birth injury affects the family depends on its severity. A child with a mild birth injury may go on to lead a near-normal life. A child with a moderate to severe birth injury likely faces a lifetime of physical and/or mental disability and will require lifelong protection.

Mistakes by medical professionals during childbirth can lead to many different types of birth injuries. These injuries have consequences that change the course of the child’s life. Finding out your baby has suffered a birth injury can be devastating. The lifetime of care that your child faces can be overwhelming to comprehend. However, all is not lost. Many therapies, treatments, and equipment are available to help kids with birth injuries reach their full potential. Here are three examples of people with birth injuries or congenital cerebral palsy who overcame the setbacks to attain sporting glory.

Shooting for Success

Stephanie Gray knew something was wrong with her infant daughter. The baby couldn’t turn her head properly and didn’t seem to have normal sensation. Allie Gray was diagnosed with a clavicular fracture and damage to her brachial plexus. The birth injury left Allie unable to use her left arm. The young girl spent most of her early life in some type of brace or contraption. By age 13, Allie was the veteran of 12 surgeries. She even wore a brace for a year that made her look like the Statue of Liberty.

But Allie’s story doesn’t end here. Through sheer determination and persistence, Allie is a skilled archer today. She shoots the bow and arrow with her one good arm and her teeth. “Once she started hitting the target consistently, she was hooked,” says Allie’s coach at Haynesville Junior High in Louisiana.

Racing to Victory

From the time she was born in 1985, Shirley Reilly has been a fighter. Born prematurely, baby Shirley was put in an incubator. The oxygen in the incubator was mistakenly turned down too low, and Shirley was left paralyzed below the waist.

This devastating setback didn’t stop Shirley from rising to sporting glory. When she found she was good at wheelchair racing, the young girl honed her skills to become a champion, participating in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics. Shirley won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. What she cherishes most, however, are the London 2012 games where she won a bronze medal in the 1500-meter race, a silver medal in the 5000-meter race, and a gold medal in the marathon.

Leaping to Glory

Nineteen-year-old Australian Brayden Davidson was recently named Elite Athlete with a Disability after he won his country their first track-and-field gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympics with a record-breaking 5.62-meter jump.

The men’s long jump champion credits his extraordinary success to his grandparents who encouraged him to pursue sports despite being afflicted by cerebral palsy. As a young boy, Davidson dreamed of swimming glory, but when his shoulders broke down prematurely from the cerebral palsy, he refused to let his Paralympics dream die and switched to athletics.

Image via Wikimedia by Australian Paralympic Committee

Share To: