Senior rugby star sustains hip-shattering injury


Senior and St. Edward’s University Rugby Football Club Vice President Zach “Chad” Chodaniecky recently suffered a severe injury in a recent game against Texas Christian University, TCU, on Feb. 16. 

Chodaniecky has been playing rugby since his sophomore year after a friend introduced him to the sport, knowing his background in soccer could be an asset to the team. Although he had never played before, he immediately became an important player. 

In his last game, the Rams were playing a close game against TCU. Chodaniecky scored many points within the first half when a TCU player took an interest in Chodaniecky as a leader in the game. As St. Edward’s took the lead, the opposing player seemed to become more aggressive towards Chodaniecky, despite the warnings of officials.

During the next play, the TCU player tackled Chodaniecky illegally from behind and landed on top of him. All of the force of the fall was directed into Chodaniecky’s right knee. 

Not realizing the seriousness of his injury, Chodaniecky stood up. When he did manage to stand, his right leg was visibly shorter than his left.

As St. Edward’s rugby is a club sport, the team does not have access to the school’s trainers, and there were no immediate athletic trainers present on the field. This presence would not have mattered, though, as his injury proved to be too severe for any trainer’s help. 

“We are not a varsity sport, but we get varsity injuries,” Chodaniecky said.

He was taken to the hospital. As his clothes were being cut off of him, Chodaniecky asked if his jersey could be left on. He wanted to avoid damaging a team-bought jersey.

Doctors found that Chodaniecky’s femur went through his hipbone, breaking his hipbone into pieces. The femur then continued to travel up, finally stopping in his lower rib cage. After doctors tried to wiggle his hip back into place, they determined that his hip was going to need to be surgically reconstructed.

Since doctors had to fuse his original bone with a stainless steel plate, Chodaniecky will have to spend five months with no weight on his right leg. After these initial five months, he will be evaluated for physical therapy. He will need to learn to walk again. 

“Physical therapy is by far harder than any training I did for rugby,” Chodaniecky said. “It’s actually scary just staring at a leg that doesn’t move anymore.”

Currently, Chodaniecky is not even allowed to use a wheel chair, as the angle could constrict blood flow to his damaged hip and leg.

His limited mobility caused him to lose his job and has made touring with his band, Fingers Crossed, impossible.

“We had a full U.S. tour this summer that we had to cancel because I won’t be nearly in shape for the road,” Chodaniecky said.

Despite losing his job and not being able to tour with his band, Chodaniecky looks forward to using his recovery time to finish school from home. He will turn in assignments online and keep up with class through email, as his professors have proven to be both understanding and empathetic to his situation.

“My professors have all been very helpful … I couldn’t thank them enough for that,” Chodaniecky said.

Chodaniecky went on to say that he does not regret playing rugby. Even with its high risk of injury, rugby, in his opinion, is the best sport. 

He now faces the difficult task ahead: recovering in time to walk, assisted, at graduation in May.