Marc Buoniconti knows first-hand the pain a spinal cord injury can cause. In 1985, as a linebacker for The Citadel, he suffered a cervical spine injury like Tulane’s Devon Walker did last weekend against Tulsa.
Buoniconti said he saw Walker’s injury and believes he can recover.
“I saw the play. His arms and legs did not go limp,” said Buoniconti, who was paralyzed from the shoulders down and spent the seven months after his injury on a respirator. “So I feel that if he has an incomplete injury that his chance of recovery can dramatically increase.”
An incomplete motor injury, according to Dr. T. George Hornby, a research scientist/physical therapist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, occurs when a patient with a spinal cord injury has “some volitional muscle activity that could lead to greater potential for recovery utilizing their legs and arms.”
Buoniconti co-founded the Miami Project with his father, Nick, and Dr. Barth Green, and they’ve joined forces for the past 27 years to tirelessly explore research into treatment for spinal cord injuries like he and Walker suffered.
One of those is “modest hypothermia,” a method of lowering the body temperature to cool the spinal cord.
Buoniconti said the hypothermia treatment would be beneficial to Walker as he tries to recover from his cervical spine injury at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in Tulsa, Okla.
“When people ask me, ‘Marc, when are we going to find a cure?’ I tell them for some people we already have,” he said. “A lot of people who sustain injuries are able to get some hypothermia therapy and they’re dramatically better or even completely better. It’s so supremely different today.”