Spinal trauma patient views injury as just another steep hill to climb

June 24, 2019

Spinal trauma never saw Cody Wills coming.

To Wills, life is one long and winding race track, complete with steep hills, hairpin turns and times to beat. So when he found out eight years ago at the age of 20 he’d spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, Wills shrugged.

After all, practically since he could crawl, Wills has lived for wheels.

So it’s no shock to find him at dawn on May 18 leading his Top End Force RX hand cycle through a crowd of friends and fans at the 16th annual Got the Nerve? Triathlon, flashing a toothy, crescent-moon grin. Just about everyone knows him.

“Hey Cody!”


“What’s up, brother? Looking good!”

The Mount Gretna triathlon is one of two Penn State Health-sponsored events on this day geared to support adaptive athletes like Wills. An hour or so after his 16-mile hand-cycle race morning, Wills plans to load up into his Chevy Avalanche and drive to Middletown, where he’s expected at RecFest. On the campus of Penn State Harrisburg, vendors demonstrate sports like wheelchair rugby, basketball and diving.

Wills will be a featured attraction. He’ll ride a motorcycle for The Bike Experience Foundation and throw punches and flex for ParaPer4mance, a fitness company he promotes.

The showmanship hasn’t changed since his 2011 accident. At home, the Wills still have framed photos of their son as a youngster popping a wheelie on a motorcycle in the front yard. He continues to ride ATVs for fun but fulfills his competitive side by traveling the country looking for tracks on which to race a stopwatch, regardless of the broken neck that took away his legs.

The biggest difference: these days, Wills is taking passengers along for the ride.

Read the full story on Penn State Medicine.

Last Updated July 08, 2019