Head First Slide Causes Hahn Paralysis
Article printed in April 20 edition of Collegiate Baseball
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
TEMPE, Ariz. — Former Arizona State player Cory Hahn is paralyzed from the middle of the chest down because of the head first slide.
A 2010 graduate of Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.), Cory earned First Team All-State, Trinity League MVP, 2010 Orange County Player of the Year, CIF Player of the Year and California Player of the Year honors.
Following high school, Cory was drafted by the San Diego Padres but decided to attend Arizona State University. Hahn, a freshman last season, was playing in his second game as a starter for the Sun Devils against New Mexico on Feb. 20, 2011.
After Hahn reached first base, ASU put on a double steal. As the Lobo pitcher went into his windup, both runners took off. The catcher received the pitch and fired a ball to second as the 2B Kyle Stiner covered for New Mexico.
The throw was off as the ball carried Stiner into the path of Hahn. Cory then slid head first into the fielder’s shin. The collision broke Hahn’s neck as his body abruptly stopped, motionless on the ground.
Hahn told Collegiate Baseball that he had only utilized the head first slide less than 20 times in his entire life prior to that fateful day.
"Throughout my baseball career, I was not really that big of a head first slider," said Hahn. "I rarely had done that. If you don’t count sliding head first back into first base on pickoff attempts, I slid head first less than 20 times my entire life in games to different bags.
"With the head first slide, you are always worried about dislocating a shoulder, jamming your wrist or even getting your hand stepped on with the potential for broken fingers. That’s why you see a lot of fast base runners today wear wrist guards for this very reason.
"I really never liked sliding head first into bases. It was not natural for me, and it was uncomfortable. Since I was a speed guy, I wanted to get there as fast as possible. Through testing, I realized the popup slide was better suited to my game. So rarely did I ever do it. And the majority of times when I did slide head first, it was into third base."
Hahn said that he simply reacted to the situation during that fateful day.
"The only thing on my mind at the time was get into second and be safe. The second baseman was going for the ball, and I slid head first into the bag. A collision with my helmet and the infielder’s shin took place, and I heard a ‘crack’ take place. But I didn’t know exactly what had gone on because dealing with this type of injury is painless. My whole body went numb.
"When the ball got past the second baseman and into centerfield, my first instinct was to get up and go to third. My coaches were yelling, ‘Three, three, three,’ but I couldn’t move at all. Then my coaches and trainer came running out on the field."
Hahn said within minutes other medical personnel rushed to the scene, and he was taken off the field to an awaiting ambulance and taken to Barrows Neurological Institute in St. Joseph’s Hospital a short drive away.
"As I was motionless on the field, my dad came down on the field to be with me. I was very fortunate he was there. Once he heard that I was going to be a starter at ASU, he didn’t want to miss his son’s first collegiate games and hopped in his car and drove all the way from California to see me play.
"He helped me relax and was there to make some important decisions in the hospital prior to surgery. He got in the ambulance with me on the trip to the hospital as he rode in the front seat."
C-5 Vertebrae Split In Half
Hahn was asked what transpired once he arrived at the hospital.
"They did every test you can possibly think of. They did all sorts of moving and motor type tests and then did CAT scans and MRIs to pinpoint precisely what had happened. Within seconds of seeing the CAT scans and MRIs, they knew surgery needed to be done. They saw that the C-5 vertebrae was split in half with part of it sticking out into my spinal cord."
Hahn said the surgery took about 5-6 hours, and he was unconscious for 12-13 hours.
"The Barrows Neurological Institute is the top facility on the west coast for injuries like this and one of the best in the world. I was fortunate that the top surgeon in this institute operated on me."
Hahn said he woke up after the surgery and had a number of nurses and doctors surrounding him.
"I couldn’t talk at the time because I was hooked up to a ventilator to make sure I could breath. Then they took me off the ventilator. The surgeon came in the room and talked to me one on one. He explained that they fixed my C-5 vertebrae by putting it back together and essentially re-made the bone. Then they fused C-4, C-5 and C-6 vertebraes together with a titanium plate, four screws and a carbon fiber wrapping around those bones.
"He said everything now was in God’s hands. I wasn’t really listening that closely at the time since I was under some powerful narcotics. I was really groggy. But the message was clear that I was going to be paralyzed." 

READ MORE ABOUT CORY HAHN BEING PARALYZED: This special feature in the April 20, 2012 edition of Collegiate Baseball delves deeper into this tragedy. Hahn was transferred to an in-patient rehabilitation facility in Pomona, Calif. for 50 days before finally going home. His dad then quit his job to be with Cory full time instead of hiring nurses. And ultimately, Cory came back to take courses at Arizona State and pushes himself in a plain wheel chair several miles a day around campus while taking a grueling academic load. In addition, ASU Head Coach Tim Esmay explains the horror of this injury. To read the entire story, call our subscription department at (520) 623-4530 weekdays from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mountain Time. A copy of the April 20 issue is available for $3 while a year’s subscription to Collegiate Baseball (14 issues) is $28.