Etac Balder powerchair owner Matt Hampson, ex-England U21 tight-head prop, has recently launched his autobiographical book ‘Engage’ written with Paul Kimmage which tells Matt’s story before and after his life changing accident leaving him paralysed from the neck down, unable to breath without the aid of a ventilator.
High profile Matt Hampson nicknamed ‘Hambo’, 26 from Leicestershire, is a remarkable and inspirational individual who was a rising star in English rugby. Following his exceptional rugby performances at Syston RFC, he was selected by the Leicester Tigers Academy and continued to build upon his sporting prowess whilst juggling educational commitments at Queen Elizabeth College. During this time he trained alongside the likes of Austin Healey, Neil Back, Martin Cory and England World Cup winning Captain, Martin Johnson. He then progressed to playing for his country and achieved several under 19 caps and eventually became the first choice prop for the under 21’s alongside other fellow stars such as Toby Flood, James Haskell and Ben Foden. However during a routine training session on the 15th of March 2005, Matt sustained a neck injury following a scrum collapse that would change his life forever. Matt explains: “It was a cold grey day at a Northampton training ground and we were training hard as normal. During the session we set up a scrum and were given the command to ‘engage’. The scrum came together however both teams collapsed and I took the full force of both packs on my neck, which left me unable to breath or feel my arms or legs. Following this freak accident, I spent over 17 months recovering in Stoke Mandeville Hospital before I was well enough to return home as amongst many other issues I had to beat Clostridium difficile and confirm my ability to swallow. Without my family and friends I would never have made it”.
Now six and half years since his accident, Matt has rebuilt his life and is busy with many worthwhile causes which include his charity work, writing for Rugby World Magazine and coaching at Oakham school. Throughout all of his day-to-day work he is fully dependent on a team of ten carers and his Etac Balder F280 powerchair, which delivers mobility, comfort and the ability to travel in an accessible vehicle via its Automatic tie-down system. Matt controls his powerchair with a sensitive mini-joystick operated by his chin and his ventilator is neatly attached to the rear of the seat. The Etac Balder F280 is a Scandinavian-built, hi-tech electric powerchair that leads the market place in terms of functionality, reliability and flexibility whilst providing superb manoeuvrability through front wheel drive and a battery range of up to 34km on one charge.
Matt continues: “The Matt Hampson Foundation which we set up in early 2011 takes up the majority of my time however I am able to continue my passion for rugby through my coaching which i feel is the next best thing to playing. My Etac Balder has really good traction and power, hence I can comfortably drive onto muddy training pitches without the worry of getting stuck which really helps with being close to the action. Off the field, my foundation is committed to inspiring and supporting young people seriously injured through sport and I am glad to say we have already raised a substantial amount of money. In addition to the numerous high profile charity events and dinners we organise throughout the year, my new book ‘Engage’ and patrons such as my old team mate Martin Johnson, are helping to raise awareness and funds for injured young sportsmen and women. Writing the book with Paul over the past four years has been emotionally draining for me however the response I have received from people since the launch has been absolutely amazing. My recent interviews on national television and the serialisation of my new book in the Sunday Times has really helped raise awareness of my foundation. Knowing I have the support of so many people locally and nationally really helps motivate me on a daily basis and I fully believe in remaining positive. My rugby training taught me respect, discipline and control, which has given me the mental strength to tackle my new life and help as many people as possible along the way.”
Matt concludes: “My Etac Balder powerchair is a fantastic piece of kit and I am keen to help Etac with product development in the future, as I am always willing to pass on my experiences and knowledge that i have gained through living the last 6 and a half years of my life. Meeting people through my Foundation with similar disabilities to myself, inspires me and helps keep my life moving forward. I always will feel proud and privileged to have played rugby alongside so many stars who currently play for our country.”
Ian Carter, Etac Managing Director added: “Matt is a truly exceptional character and to show this continued grit and determination, which is clearly demonstrated in his book, is very inspiring. We wish him every success with his charity work and feel sure that his Etac Balder F280 will continue to meet his mobility needs now and in the future.”
The Matt Hampson Foundation can be found at: www.matthampsonfoundation.org