Paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand underwent surgery late Saturday night, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement released by the university’s athletics department Sunday afternoon, Rutgers officials said, “Eric is resting in the intensive care unit at Hackensack University Medical Center and will remain there for the near future. Currently, he has no movement below the neck.”
Dr. Fred Mueller, director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, studies fatal and permanent-disability injuries of high school and college athletes.
Mueller, whose research is funded by and collected for the NCAA, said “90 percent” of catastrophic injuries “happen when a player’s head is down” while making a tackle.
“Kickoffs are dangerous,” Mueller said. “There have been fewer and fewer neck injuries the last five years. Most of the (catastrophic) injuries have been head injuries. There’s been a reduction of the head injuries because coaches are teaching the kids not to put their head down and tackle properly. But at the last minute you don’t know what the kid was thinking.”
Mueller, an expert in spinal cord injuries, said the next 48-to-72 hours will be key for the surgeons to determine “how badly damaged the vertebra is.”
“That’s important because some kids have fractured cervical vertebrae but they come through with no paralysis,” Mueller said. “But this one sounds like he already has no movement at all so I don’t know how that’s going to turn out. If he still has paralysis after the surgery, he’ll still have to go through rehab and find out what can be recovered. He’s in for a long recovery, no doubt.”