Spine Injury Breakthroughs – Hope for Injured NFL Athlete

Published: September 16, 2007  |  Source: ivanhoe.com
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ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Within minutes of the hit that left Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett lying on the turf with a catastrophic spine injury, doctors were pumping cold saline into him.

The rapid response could be part of the reason why Everett has reportedly been able to move his leg, hip, elbows and biceps, according to W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., a professor of neurological surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where Everett is receiving care. Doctors treating the athlete, who was only in his third year in the NFL, now say walking may not be out of the question. Earlier this week, the prognosis was less hopeful.

“Early treatment with neuroprotective strategies, be it with drugs or Hypothermia, has the best chance of working,” Dr. Dietrich, who is Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, told Ivanhoe.

Faster responses and advances in the way people are treated immediately after a spine injury may mean a better prognosis for Everett than for NFL players who suffered similar injuries in the past, like Mike Utley who was paralyzed while playing for the Detroit Lions in 1991.

“Emergency response to injuries has really increased, so patients are getting to hospitals and getting treated earlier than later,” said Dr. Diethrich. “And that’s one of the reasons why we thought treatments did not work several years ago.”

Everett was infused with cold saline, inducing hypothermia, within 15 minutes of his injury. The treatment is something physicians at the University of Miami have been using to treat spinal cord injuries and heart attacks for several years, according to Dr. Dietrich. By infusing patients with cold saline, doctors lower their core temperature. This slows down the body’s responses to injury, which, in Everett’s case, may have given doctors valuable time to decompress his spinal cord before more damage was done.

Dr. Dietrich said he and other scientists are researching new ways to treat spinal cord injuries, including altering fibroblasts, a type of skin cell, to release growth factors. These cells could then be introduced into injured patients to help regenerate damaged nerves. How to do this effectively is still under study.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, which offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, click on: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.

SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.

By Vivian Richardson, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent