Given that Dave Regier had already biked 4,200 miles by October of this year, you could say his wife Carrie has a point when she accuses him of being a little extreme when it comes to staying in shape. But then, Dave is quick to point out that he’s preparing to ride 620 miles from San Francisco to San Diego over seven days, as a participant in the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge. It’s a fundraising event where participants raise up to $10,000 each for challenged athletes. When it comes to riding a bike, whether it’s 620 or 4,200 miles for most of us it all sounds more like higher math than a challenge.
In case you haven’t guessed it Dave Regier isn’t most of us, and you haven’t heard the half of it. He was born with a congenital birth defect below his knee on his left leg. “I only had a tibia (shin bone), no fibula (the outer and thinner of the two bones of the lower leg) and no muscle structure in my calf,” explains Regier. “My ankle joint was fused and my foot was about a third of the normal size. As I got older, my good foot and leg grew faster and longer, and because we couldn’t afford two different sized shoes we had to stuff newspaper into my left shoe to make it fit and build up the sole so I could walk. Basically I had a severely deformed leg and foot that had no function.”
Regier grew up on a farm about 60 miles west of Lincoln, Nebraska. They grew corn and raised pigs. “My parents took me to several doctors looking for answers. Up until the time I was eleven, I had six surgeries trying to give me more function, but it didn’t work out,” said Regier. “When I was eleven, a Shriner named Mr. Young arranged for me to be evaluated at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Twin Cities, where doctors decided to amputate my foot and ankle. But, they left my long bone (tibia), which was awesome because it gave me about 500% more function than if I’d had the amputation above the knee. I still have the function and normal motion of my knee, and because I have my tibia it provides more stability when they fit me with a prosthesis (artificial limb). It also means my prosthetic requires less material, so it’s lighter and easier to maneuver.”
“What makes this special,” says Regier, who is now an athletic trainer by profession, “is that I can work with people for over a month and they have no idea I have an artificial leg!”
After his surgery, Regier returned to the hospital three times for therapy and to be fitted with new prosthetic limbs. Meanwhile, it was life as usual back on the farm in Nebraska, where Regier says, “I raised a few pigs in my day. In fact, working on the farm is how I saved up and bought my first bike.” He also wanted to play football at school, but they told him he couldn’t as they were concerned he might hurt someone with his prosthetic leg.
Regier’s father lettered three times in football at the University of Nebraska. “He took me to all the games from the time I was six or seven,” said Regier. “Because I loved sports we were trying to figure out what I could do to be involved. Dad had sustained several injuries when he played and several of the athletic trainers he’d worked with were still there. He called them up and asked what I’d have to do to become an athletic trainer and they invited me down and showed me around. Not long after that, I became a student trainer. Now I’m a Certified Athletic Trainer and I work for two orthopedic surgeons in Fort Worth, Texas. I’ve been married for 34 years and have three sons, a 29 year-old and 26 year-old twins.”
Over the years, Regier has worked with various high school and college teams and eventually found his way back to the Shriners as the head of medical services for the East-West Shrine Game. He coordinates not only the athletic trainers, but also the physicians, ambulance services, hospitals, physical therapists and even massage therapists for the annual fund raiser which is preparing for its 88th game (longest running college all-star game in the country).
“I started with the East-West Shrine Game seven years ago when they moved the game from California to San Antonio, Texas,” recalls Regier. “An associate athletic trainer with the East-West Game, who happened to be from Nebraska, called our old boss and said they needed help with the game in Texas and that’s when I got started. I’ve been helping with the game ever since.”
Since Regier started with the East-West Shrine Game it has moved from Texas to Orlando, Florida and now to St. Petersburg, Florida. “When we change venues the challenge for me is putting together a team of medical professionals that can assure the highest quality of care for the players,” explains Regier. “This is their (players’) job interview with the NFL. If they can make it to the next level, they can make a good living; we owe it to them to provide the best care possible. Since I’ve been with the game we’ve been lucky and had very few serious injuries. The hardest thing for us is having to be prepared for anything with the right people.”
Regier says he is impressed with the way St. Petersburg has responded to hosting the game. “The way the Tampa Bay area has stepped up to support the game is really encouraging. They’ve really wrapped their arms around us. The quality of athletes that play in the game is very high. These guys become the backbone of the NFL. I think the game will continue to flourish and continue to provide entertainment for the fans, great scouting opportunities for the NFL, and most importantly awareness and fundraising for Shriners Hospitals,” he says.
“If it wasn’t for the Shriners, I wouldn’t be an athletic trainer, biking and doing all the active things that I love. Working with the East-West Game is part of my way of giving back to the organization that helped me so much. My life has been enhanced 1000% based on what they’ve done for me,” concludes Regier.