Car Crash Changes Trajectory of Teen Tennis Star's Life

An Old Saybrook native took a tragedy that derailed his tennis career and turned it into a new lease on life.

Jason Hughes grew up playing tennis in Old Saybrook. But a tragic accident during his teen years was what really taught him that you can lose one set and still win the match.

“I started playing tournaments at a young age and by the time I was 10, 11, 12, I was ranked number two in New England,” he told NBC Connecticut.

On July 3, 1988, at 16 years old, his path took a turn. His best friend fell asleep at the wheel while Hughes was a passenger while the pair was on the way home from a concert in Maine.

“The car rolled three times and we were both ejected from the car,” Hughes said. His friend was killed.

“I sustained traumatic brain injury and I was paralyzed and in a coma,” Hughes said.

When Hughes did wake up, his path forward looked a whole lot different.

“I was completely immobile and I couldn’t speak,” he recalled.

But he said he was never scared, because he knew he had a purpose.

“When I started to exercise, or be able to exercise again, I got a lot of answers from that because I no longer took this physical body for granted,” he said.

Hughes regained his movement and went on the play tennis at Northeastern University. But he also discovered a new passion. Today, he lives in California working as a tennis pro and a life coach.

“If you do something on the tennis court and it doesn’t feel good, you need to become conscious of what the adjustment is to make it feel better. And in life, a lot of times we know what will help us feel better in life, it’s just a matter of if we want to make those choices.”

For more on Hughes' story, click here.

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