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Adam Taliaferro, Cornerback for Penn State

WHAT'S INVOLVED WITH TREATMENT: continued...

 

Scientists are studying other chemicals that can be used to block the body's response to the injury, as well as whether keeping the patient cold might help.

 

Surgery also may be helpful. A day after Taliaferro's accident, a surgeon was able to reinforce the injury site in his neck with a metal pin and pieces of bone, in a procedure called spinal fusion. As Taliaferro recovered from surgery, he stayed a few more days in Ohio until he could return closer to home. It took a week for him to be able to move his left leg again. His hands came back next, followed by his right leg. His therapy at the rehabilitation center works his limbs, and with the help of a harness, he can move on a treadmill. He also can use his arms but still cannot use his fingers. His doctor has told The Associated Press that all the muscles needed to walk are working again.

DIAGNOSIS:

Doctors suspect a spinal injury when a patient loses body sensation and the ability to move. After his accident, Taliaferro had sensation in his body but suffered some paralysis. These symptoms told doctors that Taliaferro had injured the cervical spine, which is the portion of spinal cord in the neck.

 

Physicians can get clues to tell them which nerves are involved according to what the patient can and can't move. They also can use technology like MRI, which uses a computer and magnetism to create images of the injury site.

PREVENTION:

Football helmets can offer some protection by preventing a bit of the snapping motion of the head and neck. But players need to be cautious when hurling themselves headfirst into their opponents, as well as know how to protect the head and neck when falling. The high impacts and quick falls that are common in football make spinal injury a possibility.

RECOVERY:

In time, Taliaferro may regain enough strength and movement to play football again. His doctor has said that he would advise him not to play anymore because he risks reinjuring himself. The teen says he just wants to be able to make it back to school again.

LONG-TERM OUTLOOK:

The fact that Taliaferro suffered this injury on the football field allowed him to receive immediate and appropriate medical treatment. An injury such as his could have been much worse if left untreated, even for a few hours. His doctors, therapists, parents, and fellow football players all are optimistic of his recovery. To help get there, Penn State and Ohio State raised $94,000 to help with the hospital expenses. He entered the rehabilitation center on Nov. 1, waving to supporters from his motorized wheelchair. He still has about a two-month stay ahead of him and will probably need more therapy after the experts say he is ready to go home.

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