Rugby’s Role in an Intense Recovery

While on duty as a police officer in 2012, Steve Livingston was assisting an accident victim on the side of the freeway when an impaired driver lost control of his SUV, careening into Steve. Now, he shares how rugby played an important role in his long recovery.

Rugby for me was always a mystery - a sport I wanted to play but never knew where I could. Back in the day it was not as prevalent as it is today. My senior year at The Ohio State University I discovered the OSU Rugby Club and went for team tryouts. I absolutely loved the game, the people, the coaches and the workouts, but I did not fully understand it. Soon after joining, a couple of broken ribs unfortunately took me out of the game.

Later that year I joined the police force and spent a lifetime protecting and serving the public. I worked the active units, fought gangs, drugs and violent crime, and had my share of injuries - it comes with the job. 

On July 15, 2012, I was assisting an accident victim on the side of the freeway when an impaired driver came along at 55 mph on the ramp, saw me, panicked, and lost control of his 6,000-pound SUV. He crashed into me (I made a sweet dent in the SUV) and sent me flying 45 feet through the air. I bounced off the other car, became impaled on a guardrail and ended up on the ground unable to move and bleeding pretty badly. I never lost consciousness. I was dying and not expected to live. The medics lost my pulse and blood pressure several times and fought valiantly to save my life (obviously, it worked!).

I suffered 17 broken bones including my back, three cracked teeth, a punctured and collapsed lung, and at last count (still growing even after five years) more than 60 different injuries to my body. I spent two weeks at the hospital and two months at a rehab facility. Once I could walk again, I went home to recover. 

Over the last five and a half years, I have undergone more than 30 different surgical procedures and was forced into medical retirement. I have had to reinvent my life, my goals and my options. After each surgery I would be stuck in the house for weeks on end; while this is better than being stuck at a hospital, it still sucks - especially for people who live very active lives and are forced to go from 100 mph in life to near 0. During one of these recoveries I was mindlessly surfing the DirecTV channels when I suddenly came across the live Super Rugby feed from Australia. I was enthralled!! Here was a sport I love, in a country I love, being broadcast live across the world at a time when I needed a pick-me-up - I needed something to help me feel good and alive again. As you can imagine, I do suffer from PTSD, not only from that incident, but from the job in general, and having something to focus on and take your mind off of your own issues helps immensely.

I began searching the channels and discovered all the Super Rugby games and set the DVR to record them all. At first I only had Australia, New Zealand, and South African games, but eventually other games from England and the USA began to show up - I was ecstatic! I had a release for my pent up energy. I could not play, I could not travel there, but I could live vicariously and enjoy the games. 

It became a ritual that I would watch several games after surgeries - sometimes I waited to watch them, saving the games for later so I had some to watch. I did not want to break the good luck charm!

I began searching for USA Rugby and became a rugby supporter. I even added USA Rugby Trust to my will as a beneficiary. That is how much watching rugby helped me. I saw the players, the fans, hell even the refs, demonstrating the energy, grit and determination to get through anything and everything!

I have since gone back to school and am working on my second Master's degree, this time in travel and tourism, and hope to either open my own B&B, wine shop or travel agency specializing in sports tourism and event management. Looking at me, you would never guess what happened in the past, and that is how I prefer it. I do not let my injuries or past show - I am moving forward with life. Just like losing a match, I recognize it is the past and time to focus on the future. We can all endure and overcome anything!

If you're interested in supporting rugby in the United States like Steve, click here.