Scotty Masters was declared a quadriplegic when he was 15. Photo: Supplied
A Canberra radio host who was declared a quadriplegic following an illegal rugby league tackle when he was 15 has offered his support to injured Newcastle Knights forward Alex McKinnon.
Scotty Masters, one-half of the "Scotty and Nige" breakfast show on Canberra's 104.7FM, was playing club football for the Cardiff Cobras in Newcastle on a Saturday when two players spear-tackled him into the turf.
"August 6, 1988 –that's a date I'll never forget," he said. "My dad was standing 30 metres away from the ground when it happened and he heard my neck break."
"I fractured my C1 vertebrae, which is the bone that breaks when you're hanged," he said. "My mum and dad were told that I wouldn't be able to walk again – I'd been declared a quadriplegic."
Masters was hospitalised for three weeks and wore a neck brace for a year. But he said that by the time he reached his senior year of school he was running around as though nothing had happened.
He said his specialists still don't understand how he managed to recover from the injury so quickly and said "someone was clearly looking out me".
"I still have some issues with bone spurs that have formed where my neck broke. I have the shoulders and back of a 70-year-old man," he said.
As a Newcastle boy and "extreme Knights fan", Masters said he was "shattered" when he heard that McKinnon would reportedly be a quadriplegic.
McKinnon was placed in a coma after breaking two vertebrae in a tackle against Melbourne Storm players nine days ago. On Monday night, it emerged that may be a quadriplegic.
Quadriplegia involves a complete or partial loss of limbs and torso use, although it is possible for people to increase mobility with treatment over time.
"I guess the good thing is that his parents and doctors haven't said this is a long-term diagnosis," said Masters. "That's essentially what I went through and I hope he'll come good."
Masters urged McKinnon to "stay strong and follow your doctors' advice and hopeful you'll make a great recovery".
But he warned against overreactions to violence associated with the game saying rugby league has come a long way from the aggression of previous decades.
"At the end of the day I don't think there was any malice in the tackle that caused the injury to Alex," he said.
When asked if his own or McKinnon's injury would dissuade him from supporting rugby league or from allowing family members close to him play to the game he said, "God no".
"If my eight-year-old came to me and said he wanted to play rugby league then I'd be first in line buying him a helmet and supporting him," he said.