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Northern Kentucky Girl Overcomes Gymnastics Injury to Become Top Diver

Lexi Epperson of Taylor Mill was a normal fifth grader when her life changed after a devastating gymnastics injury that left her with a broken fibula and tibia that was so severe, doctors thought she might walk with a limp for the rest of her life.

It was a complete dislocation fracture of her leg and required more than one surgery to repair. The injury happened in January 2014.

“She was in a wheel chair for a couple of months because it was a complete non-weight bearing injury,” Sabrina Epperson, Lexi's mother said. “After that she wore a cast for a while.”

“All the things I used to do, I couldn't do,” Lexi said about her life after the accident. “I couldn't do gym, I couldn't walk. I like to be independent, I like doing things for myself and having someone help me do everything was really hard.”

The injury did more than just slow her down athletically. Lexi's mom said it took a toll on her emotionally as well.

“It was hard because she went from being very active from moment one to being stuck in a wheelchair and she was very frustrated,” Sabrina said. “She had a hard time at school, she was depressed, she lost a lot of her friends so it was really hard to watch. It was devastating.”

It became important for Lexi and her mom to find something that she could do to remain active and her doctor's only suggestion was diving.

“The doctor mentioned that the only thing she would ever be able to do might be springboard diving, and I had never even heard of that,” Lexi's mom said.

Prior to the accident, Lexi could not swim, let alone dive, but because the family felt it was important to get her back into some kind of active exercise, they did some research and found an organization called Tri-State Diving and signed Lexi up to see how she liked it. She wore a walking boot when she tried out for the team and made the squad despite the physical setbacks that the injury created.

From there, Lexi has gone above and beyond everyone's expectations, including her doctors'. In ten months, she went from not walking to winning second-place at the Northern Kentucky Swim League among 11/12-year olds for diving.

“She's been incredibly successful and she's been training for the AAU National Competition in Indianapolis on Thursday,” Sebrina said.

If Lexi places in the top-six, she will be invited to the national diving competition in Florida next month.

“Everything that they said she would never be able to do, she has done and has exceeded it,” Sabrina said

“I'm really excited about the AAU meet,” she said. “When I first started, I didn't really believe that I could become what I am today, but just watching videos of me back then compared to now, it's a really, really big change.”

Lexi has also tried out and made the cheerleader squad at Woodland Middle School. 

“So all of the things they said she could not do, she's done,” Sabrina said about her daughter.

Lexi said she had to do a lot of band exercises during her rehab to regain the strength she needs to remain active. She says she still doesn't have the full mobility she used to have, but that she is proud of herself for making the strides she has in order to pursue the active things she enjoys.

“I'm really proud because I never thought that I could actually overcome this. They said that I might not be able to do any sport at all, but I made the cheerleader team, and I still tumble too,” Lexi said.

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Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

Photo: Lexi Epperson (provided)