Prognosis Better for Injured NFL Player Everett

Injured Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett will walk again, a neurologist says. The assessment comes days after another physician predicted Everett might be paralyzed after suffering a "catastrophic" spinal cord injury Sunday.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It was just two days ago that a team surgeon for the Buffalo Bills said player Kevin Everett would likely not walk again. On Sunday, Everett suffered what had been termed a catastrophic life threatening spinal cord injury when he lowered his head making a tackle in the Bills season opener.

Now, dramatic news, a neurologist consulting on the case says Everett, quote, "will walk again."

NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us to talk about this. And, Tom, this was called pretty, spectacular news by the doctor himself after a really initial grim prognosis. What happened?

TOM GOLDMAN: As you mentioned, Renee, Monday, the day after the injury, the spinal cord expert who treated Kevin Everett, Dr. Andrew Cappuccino, said Everett would probably have some level of permanent paralysis. And around the league, everyone's figured Everett would join a short and tragic list of NFL players who've been permanently paralyzed from spinal cord injuries. And that list included Daryl Stingily who died earlier this year nearly 30 years after his injury.

But then word late yesterday that Everett had voluntarily moved his arms and legs when doctors lowered his sedation levels and let him partially wake up, and a Buffalo TV station also reported an MIR showed the swelling around Everett's spinal cord had gone way down.

MONTAGNE: So what did his doctor say about the turnaround?

GOLDMAN: Dr. Cappuccino was quoted by that TV station as saying we maybe witnessing a minor miracle. And a neurosurgeon consulting on the case, Dr. Barth Green from the University of Miami was quoted as saying, "Everett will walk out of the hospital."

MONTAGNE: Are the doctors saying how this could happen?

GOLDMAN: You know when Dr. Cappuccino made the statement, Monday, he never said there was no hope of recovery, and it's just that the odds were very great against it. And it appears that quick and effective medical care may have help greatly in reversing those odds. Within 15 minutes of Everett's injury, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Dr. Cappuccino was pumping Everett full of cold fluids to lower his body temperature. Now, that's been shown to help decrease damage to the spinal cord. Dr. Green compared it to an icepack on a bruise and the sooner it's done after an injury the better.

Then Doctors operated on Everett for about four hours repairing a fracture dislocation between Everett's third and fourth cervical vertebrae. That made it a very dangerously high spinal cord injury. Now the immediate plan, if his recovery continues as well as it has, Renee, is to wean Everett off his heavy sedation, warm up his body temperature and take him off a respirator.

MONTAGNE: Tom, let's briefly turn to some less inspiring news from the NFL; accusations of cheating by one of the best teams in the league.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. The New England Patriots are one of the best. They're winners of three of the last six Super Bowls. Now according to ESPN.com, NFL commissioner Roger Goodel has determined the Patriots violated league rules, Sunday, when in their opening season victory over the New York Jets, they videotaped defensive signals being sent by Jets coaches on the sidelines to New York players on the field. And this allegedly would give the Patriots an unfair advantage if they know what the defense the Jets are going to play, then they can adjust to their offense accordingly. The report says that Roger Goodel might punish the Patriots by taking away future draft picks.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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