By Rory Reynolds
RUGBY star Thom Evans has spoken for the first time about the horrific tackle that threatened to leave him paralysed.
The 24-year-old said he “felt like a shot” had gone through his body as he collided with Wales full-back Lee Byrne during Scotland’s Six Nations fixture.
It was feared that the Scotland winger could be paralysed after he received a severe shock to the vertebrae.
But the team doctor managed get to Evans before he made his injuries worse by moving his neck.
Now Evans is back training just six weeks after his career was nearly cut short.
And the 6ft Glasgow Warriors player is to model at the Dressed To Kilt fashion show in New York next month after a personal invitation by Sir Sean Connery.
Speaking about the incident, Evans said he felt like he had been shot after the traumatic tackle.
He said: “I remember getting up off the ground, having been half-tackled, and running into Lee and having my arms pinned.
“Then I felt like a shot had gone through my body. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I couldn’t feel my legs, which was really scary.
“A couple of seconds later the feeling started to come back, but then I started to feel almost like I was being crushed by something. I had no idea, but that pain was the dislocation of my spine.”
Since his injury Evans has had two operations to stabilise his spine, which is being held in place by screws and a metal cage.
He can now use his legs again, but said that if it wasn’t for the quick-thinking actions of Scotland medic Dr James Robson he could have spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
He said: “If James hadn’t been there so quickly I might have tried to move and caused more serious damage. I’ll forever be grateful for the excellent medical care I received and I can’t thank them enough.
“They made the difference between me spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair and where I am now — which is trying to get back to running at the pace I did before.”
Evans was flown to University Hospital Wales immediately after the incident, but has said that the pain of hearing that Scotland had lost the game was more excruciating than his injuries.
He said: “They couldn’t give me anything for the pain in case it relaxed the spine, which was a bit of a nightmare.
“I wanted to know what the final score was and couldn’t believe that we lost the game.
“The first time I watched the footage of the injury was really tough for me.
“But, hand on heart, I can say that losing the game was much more painful for me.
“The injury didn’t look that bad to me and I feel I have been in a thousand more serious contact situations.”
Since his injury Thom’s brother and fellow Scotland international Max has spoken to him about continuing his career in rugby, and he says he hasn’t made up his mind.
He joked: “Max has been trying to get me to slow down and not push it too much. I think he is just worried that the sooner I get back, the sooner his place will be in jeopardy.”
“I’m just trying to get back to fitness slowly and I’m going to make that decision at the end of the season.
“It’s something that I’ll need to think hard about. At the moment I’m not sure. Max has said he’ll be 100 per cent behind me no matter what decision I end up making.”
Evans added that he is looking forward to visiting New York next month and to meeting Connery.
He said: “Walking down the catwalk at Dressed To Kilt in New York is something I have set as a personal goal.
“I’m going to wear a kilt in the SRU tartan and the Scottish rugby top and hopefully carrying a ball as well.
“It is a huge honour to be invited and I’m looking forward to personally thanking Sir Sean.”