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Devon Walker Out Of Surgery

Posted on September 11, 2012

There is a strong possibility that Devon Walker may never walk again. Let’s hope that he doesn’t join the ranks of football players whose careers have been cut short because of paralysis. It happened to Darryl Stingley, who was a wide receiver for the New England Patriots and was paralyzed in a 1978 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. More than 13 years later, Mike Utley, an offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions, was paralyzed during a game against the Minnesota Vikings. A year later, the same would happen to Dennis Byrd, a defensive tackle for the New York Jets. Byrd was paralyzed during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. More recently, Kevin Everett, a tight end for the Buffalo Bills, was paralyzed in a 2007 game against the Denver Broncos.

Tulane senior defensive back Devon Walker is responsive following surgery on his fractured cervical vertebrae, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions about his progress.

English: The New England Patriots' offense on ...

English: The New England Patriots’ offense on the field against the New York Jets in a 2006-07 NFL Wild Card Playoff game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The odds were about 100,000 to 1 that he’d suffer a spinal cord injury in a college game. Walker just happened to be the unlucky one.

It was the same with Darryl Stingley, Mike Utley and Dennis Byrd and other players whose names remind us of things we’d rather forget. We just accept them as the cost of doing football business and hope they can turn tragedy into inspiration.

Walker underwent surgery Sunday to stabilize his spine. He has some feeling in his extremities. As the swelling subsides in the next few days, doctors will find out how severe the nerve damage is.

What happened is not a mystery. Walker was zeroing in on a Tulsa runner. He arrived at the target the same time as a teammate. Walker’s helmet slammed into the helmet of defensive tackle Julius Warmsley.

Walker’s body went limp. Trainers and doctors ran to him. The stadium hushed. Players knelt and prayed. “Help is on the way,” Coach Curtis Johnson whispered to Walker.

Back home, a horrified mother and father watched on TV and wondered how quickly they could get to their son. The drama has been performed so many times before.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, 295 high school, college, pro and sandlot football players suffered spinal cord injuries from 1977-2009.

Relatively speaking, guys like Utley and former Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand were lucky. They were hurt in high-profile games and had financial backstops to deal with the millions of dollars in medical and rehabilitation bills.

After a few heartfelt fundraisers, there’s not much more people can do. The high schoolers often end up scraping by on Medicaid and maybe get a plaque outside their old stadium.

About the only good news is we’ve come a long way since three college players died from injuries in 1905. Leather helmets have given way to things like the Head Impact Telemetry System, where padded sensors record the hits a player’s skull absorbs.

It’s used primarily to track concussions, though a high school player broke his neck while wearing the system a couple of years ago. Sensors showed his helmet sustained a 114 g-force blow. That was more than 30 times as much force Space Shuttle astronauts endure on takeoff.

But while it’s not 1905 anymore, all the technique and equipment refinements will never change the basic physics of football. When heads in motion collide, bad things happen. Then that all-too-familiar scene plays out.

That’s the equation we all deal with. We love the game, so we accept its collateral damage and move on. That’s better than dwelling on the reality.

A kid who wanted to be a doctor lies in an intensive care unit. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever move again. It’s a hell of a price to pay for business as usual.

If a loved one was the victim of an accident that was caused by negligence or some other form of reckless behavior, it is important that you contact a committed and dedicated personal injury lawyer to help you decide if you should file a lawsuit. A competent and reputable injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.

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