Baylor University women's basketball player DiDi Richards is on the mend following a scary injury last year that left her temporarily paralyzed.
On Oct. 24, 2020, Richards — the reigning Naismith defensive player of the year — was practicing with her team when she collided with another player as they both tried to catch a pass, according to ESPN.
"Boom, before I knew it, I was laying on my back, and I couldn't feel my legs in a blink of an eye," Richards recently told PEOPLE (the TV show!).
Richards was briefly knocked unconscious after falling to the court and suffering a "spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality," ESPN reported at the time. It caused her to become temporarily paralyzed in the lower half of her body.
"When I hit the ground, I immediately went unconscious, and then I was unconscious for about a minute and a half, I guess, before I regained consciousness and I realized that I couldn't feel anything from my waist down," she recounted.
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The moment was a terrifying one because it left Richards' future uncertain.
"I just couldn't think, I just knew I wanted to get up," she said. "I immediately started crying because I couldn't feel my feet."
Up to that terrifying moment, Richards had been on a fiery athletic trajectory, winning numerous awards for her performance on the court. In 2020 alone, she was named the WBCA defensive player of the year, BIG 12 defensive player of the year, a unanimous pick for the BIG 12 All-Defensive Team, and chosen for the All-Big 12 Second Team.
With her physical health in jeopardy, Richards questioned whether she would be able to play the sport she loves again.
"I was scared," she said in the interview while recalling the moment when a doctor told her she should think about life after basketball.
But 38 days after the incident — and following a grueling rehabilitation process — Richards defied her doctors' expectations and was back with her team helping them pick up a win over South Florida on Dec. 2.
"It was so many emotions," Richards told PEOPLE (the TV show!) of the moment. "They were questioning if I was going to be able to walk again, and to go out and have an immediately impact? It was just everything I could have hoped for."
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