A freak accident during a football match seven years ago nearly ended Michael Cartmell’s life. Since then, he has overcome considerable barriers to continue his education and get back playing sport again. Now, his bravery and determination have seen him rise through the ranks in disability football and secure a prestigious sport scholarship from Edge Hill University.
After a clash of heads on the football pitch, Michael went home with a bad headache. Later, his mother couldn’t wake him up and he was rushed to hospital. Michael had suffered an acute subarachnoid haemorrhage and developed a blood clot in his brain. As a result of such a serious head trauma, he was in an induced coma for four weeks and spent a further two months in hospital.
“I remember waking up in the hospital and seeing my friends but not being able to speak,” recalls Michael. “I had to relearn everything including how to walk and talk. I was left with a slight right-sided weakness, which means that as well as learning to write all over again, I’ve had to learn to use my left hand.”
Before his accident, Michael played county level tennis for Cumbria and played at a high level in football. He was determined to return to competitive sport and, in 2010, started playing football again for Manchester United’s Ability Counts team. He went on to be selected for the North West Cerebral Palsy team (his disability classification was the same as athletes with the condition), becoming their top goal scorer in 2014. He was then selected for a national trial and was the only one out of 40 candidates to be selected for the England CP team.
“I’ve worked tirelessly at my rehabilitation and improved dramatically over the past seven years,” says Michael. “I took part in three national England CP training camps and just missed out on being selected for the CP World Cup squad.”
Michael hasn’t let that stop him pursuing his sporting dreams, however. He still plays football and tennis and has also taken up golf and athletics. Since his accident he has also gained numerous qualifications, including football, disabled football, handball, tennis and lacrosse coaching, football refereeing, athletics, gym instructor and disability sports, as well as training in sports safeguarding, first aid and mental health first aid. He has also volunteered more than 100 hours for Edge Hill’s ‘Get Active’ programme, coaching tennis to beginners, and he is also the University tennis captain.
Michael went to America last year for three months, coaching soccer to youngsters in five different states.
“I plan to use the scholarship to enhance my performance, as it will help fund travel costs, equipment and one-to-one coaching,” says Michael. “I also plan to support Edge Hill Sports more by providing coaching to help more people access sport.”
Now in the final year of his degree, Michael is thinking ahead to a career, which seven years ago seemed impossible.
“It’s strange to think that seven years ago I couldn’t even kick a ball, and now I’m back playing at a high level again,” says Michael. “The accident has made me appreciate life more. It’s given me perspective. I’ve got a lot more time for people and I’m happy to use my experience to help others improve.”