After a Male Caused Her Partial Paralysis, Female Volleyball Player Payton McNabb Now Fights to Protect Women’s Sports

By Ashley McClure

On September 1, 2022, during a volleyball game against a rival North Carolina high school, 17-year-old Payton McNabb received a devastating head and neck injury as the result of a spike by a male athlete who identified as transgender.

“Neither I nor anyone else on the team agreed with it [the transgender athlete being allowed to play] and were against it from the beginning. We were all just so confused by how it could be allowed, and I guess we just had no idea what to do,” McNabb said. 

The male athlete’s superior height and strength, McNabb said, forced her and her teammates to play “defensively.”

“We had to adjust our whole lineup and put our biggest hitter in the front row, and even with that, we couldn’t pass the ball back because he was hitting it so hard,” she said. “No one could even get a hand on it.” 

It was one of his powerful spikes that knocked McNabb unconscious for over 30 seconds toward the end of a game her junior year. While McNabb was lying on the floor, she was later told by onlookers that her body had twisted into a “fencing position,” which is indicative of extreme trauma to the brain. 

“My coach’s wife kept trying to push my arms and legs down, but they kept coming back up. She had no idea what was happening,” McNabb said. Meanwhile, “the boy who hit me and the girls on his team were standing on the other side of the net laughing at me,” she said. 

According to McNabb, few people took her injury seriously at first. Her trainer even told her to get back in the game right after the injury happened. 

However, a later medical evaluation revealed that the ball’s impact caused neurological impairments including a concussion, vision problems, and partial paralysis to the right side of her body.  The year following her traumatic brain injury, McNabb said, was full of “blank spaces” that she’ll never remember. 

Now an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in communications at Western Carolina University, McNabb is focused on her future. She still struggles with neurological issues that make schoolwork much more difficult than before her injury, but as part of her healing process, she explained that she found a purpose in her suffering.  

“NC Values reached out to me and said, ‘we’re trying to pass a bill in North Carolina to protect women’s sports—could you come and speak?’” McNabb recalled. “I said I would, but I had no idea what I was getting into.” 

McNabb’s testimony in front of the North Carolina State Legislature, on behalf of the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, immediately went viral and put her on the map as an advocate for fairness in girls’ and women’s sports, along with fellow IW Ambassadors Riley Gaines and Paula Scanlan

Since then, she’s become an ambassador for Independent Women’s Forum, advocating to protect girls’ and women’s sports while pursuing her bachelor’s degree. As an IW ambassador, McNabb is giving a voice to the women whose stories are ignored and whose injuries are dismissed by activists pushing gender ideology in sports. 

Without her injury to demonstrate the dangers of allowing men to compete in girls’ sports, McNabb doesn’t think the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act would have passed in North Carolina. Because of that, McNabb said, “I feel like I’m helping people, and working for good, and I’m going to keep on doing that.”

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