Tulane's Devon Walker in stable condition with cervical spine fracture
BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9/09/12 at 4:22 AM
‘A difficult day’.
John Klein: Tulsa win overshadowed by scary injury.
For more TU stories.
Tulane safety Devon Walker is in stable condition, according to the school, following an on-the-field injury Saturday during the Green Wave's 45-10 loss at Tulsa.
According to a statement released by Tulane on Saturday night, Walker sustained a cervical spine fracture.
Walker's injury occurred on the last play of the first half Saturday when he and teammate Julius Warmsley were involved in a helmet-to-helmet collision while trying to tackle TU's Willie Carter.
He was transported to Saint Francis Hospital where he is "stable and in traction," and being treated for edema, or fluid, in his neck according to Tulane team physician Buddy Savoie.
"The plan is for him to have surgery in the next day or two," Savoie said. "There are great spine and neurosurgeons involved, and that's all we know at this point."
When Savoie arrived to him on the field Walker was conscious and breathing, and he said that Walker never fully lost conscious. However, several eyewitnesses said it appeared as if medical staff were administering CPR to Walker.
More than 20 minutes passed before Walker, a 21-year-old senior from New Orleans, was lifted into an ambulance.
At midfield, TU chaplain Jeff Francis took the public-address microphone and said a prayer for Walker and members of both teams gathered on the field in prayer.
"I think it went as well as it could go," Savoie said. "There are always concerns about stability, but he is stable right now. He was stable when we transported him. I do not think, based on the information that we have that his life was ever in danger or at risk."
As a freshman in 2009, Walker joined the Green Wave team as a walk-on. He is majoring in cell-and-molecular biology.
TU athletic director Ross Parmley and Tulane coach Curtis Johnson briefly discussed canceling the second half, but a TU athletic department official said Parmley and Johnson agreed that the game would continue.
Johnson described the mood in the locker room at half time as somber.
"It was a difficult day, probably one of the most difficult days ever. Just seeing a young guy, one of our family members laying on the ground. Seeing him go into an ambulance and to the hospital it was difficult," he said.
Johnson said it's tremendous that his players even finished the game and even briefly thought about telling the team to just get on the road and go see Walker.
"We said a quick prayer and I told them to take it one play at a time," Johnson said. "I said 'Let's do what Devon would do,' and Devon would go out and play his butt off."
During the second half Johnson got a few updates that Walker was OK and breathing but didn't say any thing to the coaches or players.
Johnson described Walker as "a very smart young man" who plans on going to medical school."
"He loves life and he loves football," he said.
TU quarterback Cody Green said they heard about Walker's injury, but didn't know the severity of it until they got back on the field.
"That's something that you never want to wish on anybody," Green said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to him and his family."
Football players at increased risk for neck injuries
A cervical spine fracture (broken neck) is a fracture to one of the seven vertebrae of the cervical vertebrae. These bones are the first seven vertebrae below the skull.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, cervical fractures are caused by high-energy trauma, like a fall or car accident, but athletes are at high risk, especially athletes in high-impact sports like football.
According to the AAOS, "Any injury to the vertebrae can have serious consequences because the spinal cord, the central nervous system's connection between the brain and the body, runs through the center of the vertebrae. Damage to the spinal cord can result in paralysis or death. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the cervical spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body from the neck down."
A minor fracture is often treated with a neck brace, while more serious injuries "may require traction, surgery, and internal fixation (surgical implants to repair a bone), 2 to 3 months in a rigid cast, or a combination of these treatments."
A study of U.S. emergency room visits for neck injuries in the 1990s published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that football players sustained more broken or dislocated necks than athletes in any other sport. The sport has seen a decline in injuries to the neck since the '90s, thanks largely to better protective gear, player education on head and neck injuries, and rule changes such as banning spear tackling.
But the injuries still occur. Louisville cornerback Anthony Conner sustained a broken neck last season against Rutgers. Pittsburgh linebacker Adam Gunn broke his neck during the 2008 season but returned to play 11 games in 2009.
Former University of Tulsa player Dennis Byrd sustained a cervical fracture in 1992 while playing for the New York Jets. He was partially paralyzed after he fractured his C5 vertebrae (fifth down from his skull) after he collided with a teammate in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Source: orthoinfo.aaos.org, webmd.com and other online sources
Tulsa, Tulane officials considered cancelling game after spinal injury
During halftime of Saturday's Tulane-University of Tulsa football game, after Green Wave safety Devon Walker sustained a spinal injury on the final play of the half, TU athletic director Ross Parmley and Tulane coach Curtis Johnson briefly discussed the possibility of canceling the second half.
TU had a 35-3 halftime lead. According to a TU athletic department official, Parmley and Johnson agreed that the game would continue.
Recalling his interaction with Green Wave players at halftime, Johnson said, "We said a prayer for Devon and said, 'Hey, let's do what Devon would do. He would go out there and play his butt off.'"
The Golden Hurricane wound up with a 45-10 victory. A Tulane team doctor reported that Walker, who was transported to St. Francis Hospital, sustained a "cervical spine fracture."
On Saturday night, the Tulane athletic department reported that Walker was in "stable condition." Currently, he is in traction with a lot of swelling in his neck and he is undergoing treatment for the swelling.
"The current plan is for him to have surgery in the next one to two days."
— BILL HAISTEN, World Sports Writer
Original Print Headline: Tulane player is in stable condition
Mike Averill 918-581-8489
Devon Walker (far left) is pictured just before he was seriously injured in a play involving TU's Willie Carter and Tulane's Julius Warmsley (far right) at Chapman Stadium on Saturday. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World