Minnesota mother: ‘You don’t get paralyzed from falling’

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

An official report from a game in which a Minnesota high school hockey player may have been paralyzed has drawn aggressive scorn from her mother after referees claimed that she "fell unaided" to the ice, a stark contrast from reports and video from the game which appeared to show that she was checked dangerously from behind.

Jenna Privette — family photo
Jenna Privette — family photo

As first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other Twin Cities media outlets, official Minnesota State High School League documentation from the Jan. 6 girls hockey game between the Minnehaha (Minn.) Saints and Saint Paul (Minn.) Blades claims that Saints player Jenna Privette fell to the ice under her own control, exonerating any other players from potential culpability or additional scrutiny.

Here's the direct take from the official's report, as obtained by the Star Tribune:

"She was not contacted illegally, did not fall into the boards and did not appear to fall awkwardly to the ice," the report said. The official said he checked with his partner, the linesman, the EMT on staff and the school athletic director, and "everyone agreed that the player appeared to fall unaided."

As one might imagine, Privette's mother was less than amused by the findings of the report, particularly as her daughter -- who is a senior at St. Paul (Minn.) St. Croix Lutheran High -- remains hospitalized without any ability to move her lower body. While doctors have yet to pronounce her permanently paralyzed, there is concern that she will not be able to walk again.

"You don't get paralyzed from falling. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out," Penny Privette, Jenna Privette's mother, told the Star Tribune. "We're losing the sight of what's most important. We know what we know. We know what ... we saw. ... I'm not going to get into a big war over stuff when I have my daughter sitting here in a hospital bed."

While Privette's prognosis remains highly uncertain, there is more optimism that she will eventually be able to recover lower body sensation -- as she did following a similar injury in 2008 -- than there is for Jack Jablonski, another Minnesota teen who has been hospitalized after suffering a hit from behind. There is serious concern that Jablonski may remain paralyzed for life.

Meanwhile, general outrage over the incidents that left both teenagers in the hospital have led to major reforms in Minnesota youth hockey. While many have called for an outright ban to all checking in youth and high school hockey, the Minnesota High School League announced a change in penalty policy that will classify all checks from behind, boarding or head contact violations as penalties as at least a five-minute major infraction, leaving teams whose players commit such an offense short-handed for at least five minutes of ice time.

It's unknown whether the new changes will actually be able to inspire better hockey behavior, but one thing does seem certain: They aren't going to make anyone happy by claiming that one of the players who was left paralyzed by such a hit was responsible for her own injury.

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