Tulane safety Devon Walker fractured his spine in a head-to-head collision with a teammate during a game in Tulsa, the team doctor said Saturday. Dr. Buddy Savoie said during a post game news conference that Walker is in stable condition and will need spinal surgery in the “the next day or two.”
Walker also suffered a broken neck and a collapsed lung in the collision.
According to the Associated Press Walker was revived on the field and a tracheotomy was performed. Walker is in the emergency and trauma center at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
Tulane issued a statement Saturday night on Walker’s condition: “Devon Walker sustained a cervical spine fracture. He is at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa where he is in stable condition. Currently, he is in traction with a lot of swelling in his neck and he is undergoing treatment for the swelling. The current plan is for him to have surgery in the next one to two days. He is being treated by specialists. The Tulsa physicians did a great job taking care of Devon.”
According to the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s website, an injury to the neck at the first and second vertebrae in the spinal column — and especially lower in the third through fifth vertebrae — can affect respiratory muscles and the ability to breathe.
Tulsa was leading 35-3 and facing a fourth-and-2 with the ball at the 33-yard line when the Golden Hurricane called timeout. Tulane then called timeout.
When play resumed, Tulsa quarterback Cody Green tossed a short pass to Willie Carter, who caught it at about the 28, and turned upfield. He was tackled around the 18-yard line, with defensive tackle Julius Warmsley and Walker sandwiching him and apparently smashing the crowns of their helmets into each other.
Medical personnel from both teams came out about 12:37 p.m. to attend to Walker as he lay on the field.
Dr. Buddy Savoie said after the game that Walker “actually never completely lost consciousness” and was breathing.
About 12:52 p.m., he was lifted onto a stretcher and loaded into a waiting ambulance about two minutes later. The ambulance drove off the field about 1 p.m.
FOX Sports reported a hush went over the crowd at H.A. Stadium as Walker was attended to on the field, and that several coaches were in tears. Spectators bowed their heads as someone on the field led the stadium in prayer.
The game resumed at 1:20 p.m.
Walker is a senior majoring in cell and molecular biology. His brother, Raynard, told The Associated Press that their mother was watching the game on television when her son was injured.
The family was waiting for an update on Walker’s condition, he said.
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said after the 45-10 loss that while Walker was on the field, Johnson told Walker that he was praying for him and that help was on the way.
He said the mood among players was somber, and called the day his most difficult ever.
“Just seeing a young man, one of our family members, on the ground. It was just difficult for our guys,” Johnson said in the postgame conference. “It’s no excuse, but I don’t know if they could have focused.
“It was tremendous that they finished the game, as I thought about just saying, ‘Hey look, let’s not do anything else. Let’s just get on the road and go.’”
Information from ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and The Associated Press was used in this report.