‘I Was Afraid’: A High School Volleyball Player Injured By Trans Athlete Speaks Out

AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum

While trans athletes at the collegiate, amateur, and professional levels have made national headlines for the success they’ve found competing against biological females, the movement is impacting women of all ages. Not only are these women losing out on scholarship and prize money, but they are also competing in potentially dangerous situations.

Last fall, North Carolina varsity volleyball player Payton McNabb suffered a concussion after a trans student on the opposing team hit her with the ball. Megyn covered the news at the time, and, on Friday’s show, McNabb joined to discuss her injuries and why she has decided to speak out against biological males participating in women’s sports.

What Led to McNabb’s Injury

McNabb, a high school senior, has been playing volleyball since middle school and was a three-year varsity player at Hiwassee Dam High School in Murphy, NC, when the incident occurred on November 1, 2022. Her school was competing against Highlands High School, and she said she knew she would be facing a trans athlete. “We’re the same age, so we’ve known since their freshman year,” McNabb explained. “But it’s a conference team, so we had to play them, we couldn’t just refuse the game.”

Even so, she said there were reservations because the trans opponent is “a lot taller” and “obviously stronger” than the rest of the girls on the court. “They hit it so hard… and we weren’t used to taking hits that hard, so it was difficult for us from the beginning,” McNabb explained. “I was afraid… and I know a lot of the girls were.” 

Unfortunately, that power differential led to McNabb’s injury. “I was hit and everything went black, but my teammates and coaches said I was unconscious for about 30 seconds,” she shared. “While my team was huddling around me, the opposing team was laughing.” McNabb said a trainer cleared her to re-enter the match after she regained consciousness, but her coach kept her on the sidelines. The trans player, she said, continued to play. “I was really angry, but I was just hoping that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else after I was out,” she added.

How McNabb Is Recovering

McNabb said she was later diagnosed with a concussion and neck injury, both of which she is still recovering from some six months later. “Healing has been really slow, but I’ve been trying to heal and take my time with it so I can get 100 percent back,” she said. “But it’s hard because I still want to do things and have fun.”

The physical effects have been significant. “I have impaired vision, so I had to get my glasses redone,” she said. “I have partial paralysis on my right side, so [it] lags slightly.” She said her “really bad headaches” have become less severe, but “I had to have accommodations at school, test in separate rooms, and get extra help when that’s never been a problem before.” In addition to missing the remainder of volleyball season, the multi-sport athlete also was sidelined from basketball. “I came back like halfway through my basketball season, but it wasn’t the same as it has been the last three years,” she said. “I just wasn’t playing like I used to.”

And then there is the impact on her mental health. “I had a really long depressive episode, and I have anxiety now,” McNabb shared. “I’m trying to get better from it, but it has affected me mentally and emotionally.”

The Response McNabb Has Received

After taking time to recover, McNabb has been more vocal about her experience in recent weeks. Earlier this month, she testified before North Carolina’s state legislature to advocate for legal restrictions on transgender athletes in female sports and has done some media appearances. It was only then, she said, that she heard from the trans athlete who injured her. “They did reach out about a week ago for the first time ever, and there was no remorse,” McNabb shared. “It wasn’t an apology or anything – it was kind of just a little hateful comment – but that’s the only time they’ve directly reached out to me.” The message was along the lines of: “I’m living rent free in your head.” 

There has been “hate” from strangers too, McNabb said. “[They’re] calling me ‘transphobic’ and ‘hateful’ and things like that,” she shared. “But they don’t actually know what happened.” Despite those encounters, McNabb said she has generally been surprised by the “overwhelming support” she’s received. “Everyone that I live around, they’ve all been so supportive and there have been so many people reaching out and being really, really, really nice and kind.”

Why McNabb Is Speaking Out Now

While it would certainly be understandable if McNabb chose to finish out her final days of high school healing and spending time with her friends, she has decided to use her experience to effect change. “It was really scary [speaking out] – I’m not used to doing this stuff at all,” she explained. “But I thought it’d be so wasteful not to use my story to try to do something good from it.” In her view, she is standing up for her sister, and mother, and teammates, and future daughters. “I don’t want them to ever have to even think about this stuff,” she said. “[I’m] just trying to protect women and women’s sports.”

While McNabb admitted that she’s seen the footage of her injury so many times that she has “just gotten used to it,” Megyn said it’s imperative that we do not get complacent. “I think our society has kind of gotten used to it, which we cannot,” she concluded. “That’s one of the reasons it’s so important you’re speaking out.” 

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with McNabb by tuning in to episode 539 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.