Report: Doctor says Everett has voluntary movement of arms, legs

Updated: September 12, 2007, 2:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Kevin Everett might walk again after all.

The doctor who performed the spinal surgery on Everett told Buffalo TV station WIVB on Tuesday that Everett has voluntary movement of his arms and legs and as a result he is optimistic that Everett will walk again.

Dr. Andrew Cappuccino told WIVB that Everett's sedation levels were lowered on Tuesday, allowing him to respond to verbal commands. WIVB also reported that Everett's latest MRI shows only a small amount of swelling on his spinal cord.

Dr. Barth Green, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Miami school of medicine, agrees with the prognosis.

"Based on our experience, the fact that he's moving so well, so early after such a catastrophic injury means he will walk again," Green said.

"It's totally spectacular, totally unexpected," Green said.

Green said he's been consulting with doctors in Buffalo since Everett sustained a life-threatening spinal cord injury Sunday after ducking his head while tackling the Denver Broncos' Domenik Hixon during the second-half kickoff of the Bills' season opener.

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Everett dropped face-first to the ground after his helmet hit Hixon high on the left shoulder and side of the helmet.

Asked whether Everett will have a chance to fully recover, Green said: "It's feasible, but it's not 100 percent predictable at this time. ... But it's feasible he could lead a normal life."

On Monday, Cappuccino said that Everett sustained a "catastrophic" and life-threatening spinal-cord injury and was unlikely to walk again.

"A best-case scenario is full recovery, but not likely," Cappuccino said Monday. "I believe there will be some permanent neurologic deficit."

Bills owner Ralph Wilson said the team has been in contact from the beginning with Green and the Miami Project, the university's neurological center that specializes in spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

Everett's agent, Brian Overstreet, also said Everett's mother, Patricia Dugas, told him the player moved his arms and legs when awakened from a deeply sedated sleep.

"I don't know if I would call it a miracle. I would call it a spectacular example of what people can do," Green said. "To me, it's like putting the first man on the moon or splitting the atom. We've shown that if the right treatment is given to people who have a catastrophic injury that they could walk away from it."

Green said the key was the quick action taken by Cappuccino to run an ice-cold saline solution through Everett's system that put the player in a hypothermic state. Doctors at the Miami Project have demonstrated in their laboratories that such action significantly decreases the damage to the spinal cord due to swelling and movement.

Kevin Everett
AP Photo/Don HeupelA trainer attends to Kevin Everett after he showed no signs of consciousness following a helmet-to-helmet hit on Denver's Domenik Hixon at the start of the second half.

"We've been doing a protocol on humans and having similar experiences for many months now," Green said. "But this is the first time I'm aware of that the doctor was with the patient when he was injured and the hypothermia was started within minutes of the injury. We know the earlier it's started, the better."

Everett remains in intensive care and will be slowly taken off sedation and have his body temperature warmed over the next day, Green said. Doctors will also take the player off a respirator.

On Monday, Cappuccino noted the 25-year-old reserve tight end did have touch sensation throughout his body and also showed signs of movement. But he cautioned that Everett's injury was life-threatening because he was still susceptible to blood clots, infection and breathing failure.

Cappuccino repaired a break between the third and fourth vertebrae and also alleviated the pressure on the spinal cord. In reconstructing his spine, doctors made a bone graft and inserted a plate, held in by four screws, and also inserted two small rods, held in place by another four screws.

Doctors, however, weren't able to repair all the damage.

Bills punter Brian Moorman immediately feared the worst when Everett showed no signs of movement as he was placed on a backboard and, with his head and body immobilized, carefully loaded into an ambulance.

"It brought tears to my eyes," Moorman said after practice. He said the sight of Everett's motionless body brought back memories of Mike Utley, the former Detroit Lions guard, who was paralyzed below the chest after injuring his neck in a collision during a 1991 game.

Utley, Moorman recalled, at least was able to give what's become a famous "thumbs up" sign as he was taken off the field. Everett didn't.

"That's what I was waiting for, and that's what everybody else was waiting for," Moorman said. "And to have to walk back to the sideline and not see that made for a tough time."

Utley, who lives in Washington state, was saddened to see replays of Everett's collision.

"I'm sorry this young man got hurt," Utley said. "It wasn't a cheap shot. It was a great form tackle and that's it."

Cappuccino received permission to operate from Everett's mother, who spoke by phone from her home in Houston. She and other family members arrived in Buffalo on Monday. Everett was born in Port Arthur, Texas, and played high school football there.

Buffalo's 2005 third-round draft pick out of Miami, Everett missed his rookie season because of a knee injury. He spent most of last year playing special teams. He was hoping to make an impact as a receiver.

Green noted that Everett and Wilson have ties to Miami and the Miami Project -- Everett played there and Wilson is one of the project's largest donors.

"It's an amazing group of circumstances. It's a home run. It's a touchdown," Green said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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