On September 8, Devon Walker smashed helmets with defensive tackle Julius Warmsley in Tulsa, fracturing his spine and causing him to lay motionless on the field. Medical personnel from both teams tended to Walker, and he was taken Saint Francis Hospital where he underwent surgery for edema in the neck and a cervical spine fracture. According to Tulane University, Walker was recently moved to a new facility to continue therapy for his spinal cord injury.
It’s no secret that football players are at increased risk for brain and neck injuries, since they experience collisions on a regular basis that can easily cause a life-changing injury. Cervical spine fractures, like Walker’s, are caused by high-energy trauma and cause a fracture in one of the seven vertebrae of the cervical vertebrae. This kind of injury is especially serious, as the spinal cord runs through the center of the vertebrae, so paralysis or even death can result. Temporary or permanent paralysis of the entire body from the neck down is possible.
It’s still unclear whether Walker is able to move certain parts of his body or whether he has paralysis, as his family requested privacy during Walker’s recovery. The name and location of the facility where he will continue therapy remains confidential. However, Walker was recently able to issue his first statement since his injury, explaining his thanks for everyone’s prayers, wishes and support. His family wrote that “Devon is in good spirits and getting stronger every day.”
Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand also injured his spine in 2010 and was paralyzed below the shoulders. Five days a week, Eric attends physical therapy with the hope of walking again. His mother, Karen LeGrand reported to the Associated Press that she and her son will make themselves available to Devon and his family in any way they can.
Although the NCAA insurance covers Walker’s medical expenses, his family’s expenses in tending to him are not. But the Tulane community has reached out to help. Tulane has established the Devon Walker Fund to support Devon in his journey. Last year, a fraternity at Tulane, Zeta Psi, lost their house, clothes, and belongings to a fire, and members of the football team reached out to donate clothes to the fraternity brothers. Now, after Devon’s injury, the fraternity is giving the football team their support by holding fundraisers for the Devon Walker Fund. Other community efforts have helped the university raise more than $166,000 as of October 12.
Little is known about Walker’s current condition, but with the support of the community, fans, and family, Walker is reported to be in good spirits. In his statement, Walker explained how thankful he is for the fundraisers held in his honor and expressed how much each card and letter means to him: “They give me the inspiration to keep on pushing.”