Soldier’s skydiving injuries eased through adaptive sports
While attending Airborne School, U.S. Army Capt. Justin Decker knew instantly that something felt different during his third of five jumps required to earn the coveted airborne “Jump” wings. At first he adopted the ‘ignore it and it’ll go away strategy,’ until the pain eventually became too great. It wasn’t until sometime later that an MRI revealed one of his vertebrae had slipped out of position. “I simply did not think it was as bad as it turned out to be,” said Decker.

Immediately after surgery Decker stated that he felt better, but soon thereafter the pain returned. It turned out that the vertebrae itself was continuing to grow and was pressing into a nerve. A second surgery ensued, attempting to arrest the bone growth. It was unsuccessful. Today, Decker and his doctors are foregoing, for as long as possible, the undertaking of yet another surgery. 

Having twice been assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, Warrior Transition Unit, Decker has witnessed tremendous growth in WTU adaptive sports opportunities. During his first WTU assignment, in 2008, he was forced to go out on his own in acquiring a recumbent bicycle. By the time of his second assignment to the WTU, a full-fledged cycling group had been established. “So I joined up with the group, pulled my bike out of storage and got back on it after a five-year hiatus,” Decker said. “On that very first day it all came back to me. That’s really what spring-boarded me into adaptive reconditioning.” 

After advancing through Army Trials Decker, is competing in his first Warrior Games, being held at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, June 15-21.

Decker says that he had always been an avid cyclist but, at the WTU, he was also introduced to wheelchair racing, though, after having tried it for the first time he swore he’d never do so again. “I only went around the track twice and every part of my body hurt, especially my arms,” said Decker. “I didn’t know what I was doing at all.”