Paralyzed referee: ‘whatever doesn’t break you makes you stronger’

A man who sustained a spinal cord injury in a sledding accident in Syracuse more than 25 years ago was in the news recently for his work as a basketball referee.


Joe Slaski, 47, now lives in Macedon. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle identified him as the only person among about 300 referees in Section V who officiates high school basketball from a wheelchair.

At the age of 22, he was paralyzed at the waist after going down a steep hill on a plastic sled. He lost control and landed on his back and spent about three months at Upstate University Hospital, plus several months more in rehabilitation.

“To be informed by the doctors that my life would be dramatically changing certainly was a hard pill to swallow,” Slaski told the newspaper. “But they say whatever doesn’t break you makes you stronger, and there certainly has been a lot of good that has come about from a tragic situation.”

Slaski played wheelchair basketball for the Rochester Wheels and the Syracuse Flyers before becoming an official.


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