The Mayo Clinic is the No. 1-ranked hospital in the world, according to the U.S. News & World Report, and for good reason. They’re known for their outstanding research across specialties. Recently, the hospital dove into another specialty: bowhunting.
In April, the Mayo Clinic shared a video about bowhunter Jered Chinnock. The video, posted to Facebook, YouTube, and their website, garnered attention from throngs of viewers, both with and without bowhunting ties. Chinnock’s story – and the Mayo Clinic’s research – inspires millions worldwide.
The Tomah, Wisconsin, native started shooting archery when he was old enough to hold a bow. Chinnock was introduced to archery as many beginners are – by enjoying the sport as a pastime with family and friends. What began as a backyard hobby with his dad and cousins quickly became a passion as he approached the legal hunting age. Fast-forward to 2013: bowhunting came to a screeching halt when Chinnock, now 28, experienced a snowmobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Thanks to the Mayo Clinic, however, he has new hope and an increased ability to enjoy activities he loves, including bowhunting.
“Bowhunting, to me, means everything,” Chinnock said in a Mayo Clinic video. “It's who I am, and it’s what I do.” And the motivation to bowhunt pushes Chinnock during his three-times weekly therapy sessions in Rochester, Minnesota.
Chinnock enrolled in the Mayo Clinic research study in 2016. The study combines physical therapy with epidural stimulation, which helps the brain facilitate firing specific nerves to activate muscles.
After a few weeks of physical therapy, Chinnock made step-like motions with the stimulator implanted. “I was excited because I knew it would help me shoot better,” he said. “Before, I couldn’t hold my bow back for very long because I’d start to fall over from holding all the weight out with my arm extended.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, the stimulator’s electrodes are positioned inside the vertebrae between the bone and the spinal cord, just below the area of injury. Chinnock explained that therapy, coupled with the stimulator, helps increase his overall core strength and enhance his lower abdominal muscle control. Increased core strength, in turn, helps him aim longer and more consistently.
“Before I even shot with (the stimulator), just sitting in my chair on the edge of a mat, knowing that I can hold myself up better made me excited,” he said. “And I definitely shoot a heck of a lot better,” he laughed.
Jered Chinnock (above) said his love of bowhunting pushes him to work hard during his sessions at the Mayo Clinic. “I eat, sleep and live bowhunting, so anything that helps my odds to kill a bigger animal is something.” Photo Courtesy of Jered Chinnock
Chinnock said his love of bowhunting pushes him to work hard during his sessions at the Mayo Clinic. “I eat, sleep and live bowhunting, so anything that helps my odds to kill a bigger animal is something.”
Chinnock’s improvement so far has been amazing to experience, he said. But as with archery practice, it’s about small changes over time. “To walk is the main goal,” he said. “But I don’t get my hopes up. I just push as hard as I can at every therapy session.”
Chinnock’s story inspires others in situations similar to his – even bowhunters looking forward to the next hunting season. Archery practice, like physical therapy, takes time. You may not hit the 12-ring, the center target ring, or the trophy buck every time, but each small step brings success closer; it’s the cumulative results over time that matter most.
“I was set in my ways for three years, and I didn’t think I’d walk again,” Chinnock said. “I was alright with it as long as I was still able to hunt. Now, I take it day by day, each therapy session at a time. But I’m definitely aiming for one main goal, and that’s walking.”