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Everett Walks From Broken Neck Saved by Hypothermia

Bloomberg.com—August 19, 2008

Kevin Corcoran's life came crashing down last Aug. 5, when he back-flipped off his friend's boat to impress a pretty girl, hit his head on a rock and broke his neck.

There were no pops or cracks, he would later say, just a stinging sensation throughout his body and complete paralysis. Lying face down in four inches of brackish water, Corcoran, 21, silently screamed for his buddies, gasped a final breath and began to drown. His pals dragged him out of Florida's Fort Pierce Inlet as a quadriplegic with no feeling from the neck down.

A month later, Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was carried off a football field with a similar injury, a fracture dislocation of vertebrae in the neck that pinched the spinal cord. While Corcoran never recovered more than partial use of his arms, Everett walked out of the hospital and is leading a normal life. The novel technique applied to his case may set a new standard for treating spinal trauma, neurosurgeons say.

"It offers a sense of hope," said Dr. Matthew Cunningham, a spinal surgeon at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery. "I would love to be able to offer that kind of recovery. But the data just isn't there to support it yet."

Everett's recovery has set off a debate among doctors on whether to expand the use of a new technique known as mild hypothermia in cases involving spinal cord trauma.

The Corcoran and Everett cases may represent the past and the future of care for some types of spinal cord trauma, orthopedic surgeons say.


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