Jockey Michael Straight, who sustained a serious spinal cord injury in an Aug. 26 spill at Arlington Park, made positive progress in his recovery from four fractured vertebrae and other injuries when his toes moved on their own Jan. 5. Straight, who has been unable to move his legs since the accident, had experienced muscle spasms from the knee down in his legs, but said this was the first case of isolated movement in his feet.
“Just seeing those toes move was unbelievable,” Straight said. “I had to do a double take.”
Straight moved to Jacksonville, Fla., with his parents on Dec. 17. He had been recovering from the accident and subsequent surgery (during which doctors inserted a flexible rod into his spine) at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, but decided to pursue outpatient therapy at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital in Florida, near the home of his aunt. The outpatient therapy will begin on Jan. 8.
His brother, Matthew Straight, is currently riding at Tampa Bay Downs – where Michael rode his first winner on March 6, 2009.
The 24-year-old posted news of the movement on his Facebook profile on Jan. 5:
“So...I'm laying in bed and guess who told their brother ‘One of these days I'm just going to put my feet on the ground and walk!!!’” he wrote. “Then hung up with him about a minute later and about 10 seconds after that I looked down and JUST MY TOES WERE MOVING and nothing else!”
Straight said the response to his post was overwhelming.
“I had so many messages this morning it was incredible,” he said. “So many people responded and have supported me from the start. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to wish me well and let me know they’re thinking of me and praying for me. I look at the Michael Straight get well card and for someone to create that for me, in my mind, is just out of this world. To know that so many people are behind me is an amazing feeling.”
Straight, a graduate of Chris McCarron’s North American Racing Academy, had been based Arlington Park in the summer of 2009 and was aboard Im No Genetleman in a maiden race when his mount clipped heels with another horse in the vicinity of the quarter pole and tossed the rider to the track. Through Aug. 26, his career record sat at 39-32-40 from 372 starts.