Tumble during competition injures cheerleader, leaving her partially paralyzed for hours

Kelly Cordingley, Editor in Chief

She sat on the tumbling mat after the performance, unable to move her legs. Fear flowed through her as her teammate carried her off.
In that moment, she didn’t know what was going to happen.
The BV cheerleaders began preparing for their competition on Dec. 10 by flipping and launching their fliers up in the air. Varsity cheerleader junior Makenzie Bexten was practicing her tumbling when her feet barely cleared a basketball backboard sitting upright on the ground. Her back crashed onto the edge of the basketball goal.
Despite the injury, Makenzie performed the routine with her teammates.
“After the performance, I couldn’t feel my legs or anything, and I had to go to the hospital,” she said. “I couldn’t really feel my left leg while I was doing [the routine], and I kind of blacked out — I don’t even remember doing the routine.”
After the performance, fellow varsity cheerleader junior Rachel Rusnak carried Makenzie off and handed her to her father.
“My husband and I were very concerned,”  Makenzie’s mother Kathy Bexten said. “ We have two daughters who’ve hurt their backs, and we were concerned she’d done something serious.”
Makenzie was carried to the trainer to evaluate her injuries, but it was decided the injuries were too severe to be dealt with there.
“They were going to call the ambulance, but I was like, ‘That’s really embarrassing, and I’m already crying — can’t we just drive to the hospital?’” Makenzie said. “My dad carried me to the car while my mom pulled the car around.”
After Makenzie arrived at the hospital, she was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to get X-rays and MRI’s.
The doctors told her she’d torn ligaments that connected vertebrae to muscles, and they discovered a spine disease called spondylosis, the degeneration of the spine.
The doctors then injected her with steroids to loosen the muscles in her back and put her on pain medication.
They told her to wait 48 hours to regain feeling in her legs, which she eventually did.
“When she was home, she didn’t really move from the recliner for several days,” Kathy said. “We had to carry her to the bathroom and make a seat for her in the shower to sit on. We basically carried her everywhere for a few days.”
Makenzie said after she injured herself, she shouldn’t have tumbled during the competition, but that she rarely gives her injuries adequate time to heal.
“After the competition, I couldn’t walk or move my legs and I was like, ‘This is probably a good time to take a break,’” she said.
Makenzie returned to school Tuesday, Dec. 13, in a wheelchair for the week of finals.
She said her teachers were understanding about the injury.
“[The doctors] told me I couldn’t even try to use crutches because of my ligaments,” Bexten said. “They heal with scar tissue, so I’ll lose flexibility in my back. If I don’t let them heal with scar tissue, then I’d lose function of my legs forever.”
Kathy said had it not been finals week, Makenzie would have stayed home.
“I was concerned about her even being able to concentrate with the pain,” Kathy said.
Makenzie said the cheer team and cheer coach Michele Wirt were all very supportive and stayed in touch with her after the injury.
“I love them all so much,” Makenzie said. “I had so many calls, texts and people writing on my Facebook wall. Michele texted me every day and called a lot. After I got hurt warming up, she told me not to tumble during the routine, but of course I was like, ‘Oh, it’s fine.’”
Makenzie said she doesn’t know when she will be fully healed.
“Everyone just heals differently,” she said. “So I don’t know what I’ll be able to do when I heal.”
Kathy said even when Makenzie is fully healed, she’d like for her daughter to tone down the risky athletics she participates in.
“I’d like to see her not do some things because she did have such an extensive injury,” Kathy said. “But I know she’s not willing to give up her activities.”