Johnathan Taylor partially paralyzed

Updated: April 14, 2011, 5:42 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

ATHENS, Ga. -- University of Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor, who broke his neck when he collided with a teammate in a March 6 game against Florida State, is paralyzed from the waist down but showing signs of improvement, his doctors said Thursday.

Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, medical director of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, said Taylor is breathing on his own and has some use of his upper extremities. Taylor, a junior from Acworth, Ga., has no feeling in his legs or his fingers. But doctors said his spinal cord was not severed, so there is reason to believe he could make an improvement.

"A majority of people with his injury don't walk, unfortunately," Leslie said. "Time will tell. We'll know relatively soon with this young man."

At Shepherd Center, Taylor initially was put on a ventilator and needed an electric wheelchair. He is now able to breathe on his own and push a wheelchair.

"He's getting stronger by the day," Leslie said. "His muscles in his upper extremities are almost full. He's an athlete, he wants to go train. The sky is the limit."

Taylor injured the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in his neck when he collided with outfielder Zach Cone while diving for a line drive in the third inning of Georgia's 7-5 loss to Florida State. He underwent neck surgery the next day at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens to stabilize his spine.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Taylor
Courtesy of Georgia AthleticsJohnathan Taylor's spine is not severed, and doctors also said there is reason to believe the Georgia baseball player could make an improvement.

He was transferred to Shepherd Center on March 11, where he continues his daily rehab and therapy.

"[Taylor] is the heart and soul of our program," Georgia coach David Perno said. "He's the face of our program. It's a struggle because you can't replace him. It's going to be a long road and we're all in it together. We'll make the best of it."

A fund in Taylor's name has been established to help with his medical expenses. Donations will be collected instead of admission at the annual spring football game Saturday in Athens.

It is the second time in three years a Georgia baseball player has been paralyzed. In October 2009, freshman second baseman Chance Veazey broke his neck when his scooter was hit by a car near campus. Veazey currently works as a student assistant on Georgia's baseball team.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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