An Olympic ice hockey star's sporting career has come to a devastating end after an accident during a game left her paralysed from the chest down.
Hakala, who serves as her team captain, suffered a severe neck injury when she collided head-first into the goalpost during the game last Friday (24 November).
The 26-year-old was stretchered off the ice and taken to University Hospital in Linköping, where she underwent surgery, the team announced.
She is now paralysed from the chest down and has reduced function in her arms and hands.
Taking to Instagram, Hakala shared how she's feeling following the freak accident.
“It is still hard to understand what has happened, that the crash into the goal post was as serious as it was, that the consequences have become so big," she said.
“Not only that I am forced to stop playing hockey, something that has been a big part of my life for many years, but that I may be forced to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
“The injury I sustained last Friday after colliding with the goal post has left me paralysed from the chest down, with reduced function in my arms and hands. That’s the reality I’m trying to land in."
Hakala worked her way through the ranks of Finland hockey and made her international debut back in 2012 as part of her country's Under-18 team.
She represented Finland at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022, bringing home bronze medals at both and also won two silver medals and one bronze across World Championship events in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Now, she faces a 'long period of rehabilitation,' according to her club, which she has been a part of for eight seasons.
“I understand that I am now facing a long and hard fight with my body and the toughest game of my life," Hakala continued in her Instagram update.
“Now I need to focus all my energy on the rehabilitation so that I can recover as well as possible.
"Therefore, me and HV71 will not leave further comments regarding my injury or situation and I ask you all to show consideration and respect for me and my family.
"This situation obviously sucks, but I’m not scared to take it on. I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I know it will be f**king awesome.”Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@sanniihakala/Sarah Stier/Getty