OFF THE FIELD: Jess Carstens will never play football again after suffering several serious spinal injuries from a nasty tackle.
OFF THE FIELD: Jess Carstens will never play football again after suffering several serious spinal injuries from a nasty tackle. John McCutcheon

Tackle leaves Jess facing lifetime of pain

SHE grew up playing touch football, so making the transition to play club rugby league was supposed to be an exciting new challenge for Jess Carstens.

The 29-year-old never got to represent the Sunshine Coast Falcons.

It was only her fourth game of league pre-season and during a trial match for the Falcons on April 8 she took a tackle so hard the Nambour Crushers fullback would never return to the field for another game.

"I made the tackle," Ms Carstens said. "I remember hitting the ground and feeling my pelvis go hot...my legs went out straight and I couldn't move.

"I had to get up though, quickly, because the game was going to run over the top of me. I just took painkillers and iced it thinking it was a cork. I went back on after a bit to finish the game."

Ms Carstens said she didn't realise the damage caused until she found herself in hospital two days later.

She had severely damaged her left sacroiliac joint, the foundation supporting her spine; ruptured a disc and tore her sciatica nerve. After trying physiotherapy, a chiropractor, acupuncture and a CT guided spinal that caused her 10 days of the "most excruciating pain of her life", recent results from the doctors revealed her condition was still deteriorating, fast.

"I will need to have radiofrequency neurotomy surgery; an injection that gets rid of all the nerves which eases some of the pain."

But for only a 30-50 per cent long-term success rate, the procedure will cost about $8000. It's money that Ms Carstens doesn't have, given she can no longer work.

"My football insurance won't pay up front; they reimburse 80 per cent of the costs but I have to pay up front first.

"And it only pays for about $5000 of treatment, $1500 of that I have already used for treatment."

Ms Carstens said she was trying to get her superannuation fund to release some of her benefits early on compassionate grounds. "I'm only young, I don't want to dig into my super...but what else can I do?

"This whole experience has been life-changing; you go from training for three hours every day and living your life to wondering whether you will be able to get out of bed the next day because of the pain.

"I can't work, I can't play football; I can't even make plans without knowing what the day will be like."

Ms Carstens said she hadn't give much thought to what her life would be like after surgery, and just wanted to tackle one hurdle at a time.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Ms Carstens by her personal trainer and friend, Simone Sullivan.

"(Jess) is a force to be reckoned with and the girl who lights up the whole room when she enters," Ms Sullivan said.

"She has an infectious personality that leaves you wanting more and is always leaving a positive impact on those around her. Any donations will go towards paying for Jess's surgery, her recovery and rehabilitation."



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