PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) The 72-hour window of hope has come and gone for paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand without word on whether he has had any feeling or movement below his neck.
Coach Greg Schiano had no medical update on LeGrand’s condition after the team practiced on Wednesday, the fourth day since the junior defensive tackle was paralyzed from the neck down making a tackle on a kickoff return against Army on Saturday afternoon.
Some doctors believe if a person who sustained a spinal cord injury does not have some feeling or movement within 72 hours, there is little chance of recovery.
Schiano is adamant in his belief LeGrand will walk again.
To honor their teammate, Rutgers players have put a sticker on the front of their helmets with the word “believe.”
“When they look at it, they will see it,” Schiano said of the sticker.
Dr. Roy Vingan, a neurosurgeon with the North Jersey Brain and Spine Group, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that there is set time to determine the extent of a spinal cord injury.
From his personal experience, however, Vingan said spinal cord patients who exhibit no evidence of neurological function below the area of injury within 24 to 72 hours do not make a significant recovery. He said there have been one or two exceptions in the time he has practiced, but the number is very low.
“Seventy-two hours is a reasonable amount of time I think, and many would agree, to access the patient; that if there is no function within 72 hours, it is unlikely there will be a recovery.”
While Vingan is associated with Hackensack University Medical Center, where LeGrand had surgery and is being treated, he was unable to comment on the case because of federal privacy laws. The family has authorized Rutgers to release information about the 20-year-old LeGrand of Avenel.
Strides have been made in helping patients live with spinal cord injuries over the last 25 years, Vingan said.
“The survival potential has significantly improved,” Vingan said. “The treatment of the injury itself and ability to say we’ve progressed light years in the repair of the spinal cord or in preventing the worsening of an injury once it has occurred, the answer is it is not light years. There has been some improvement, but we certainly don’t have a remedy for a spinal cord injury to repair the cord itself.”
Vingan said there are basically two types of spinal cord injuries, complete or incomplete.
A complete spinal cord injury is irreversible, he said. However, roughly 85 percent of the people with incomplete injuries show some kind of functional improvement, the surgeon added.
Linebacker Antonio Lowery looked down at the believe sticker on his helmet after practice on Wednesday and said it was a “perfect” way to sum up the feelings of LeGrand’s teammates.
“When I see that, it explains everything,” Lowery said. “It’s just believe every aspect from school, social life, football. It hits home.”
Lowery admitted it has been hard not getting much news about LeGrand’s condition in recent days. However, he knows Schiano has been at the hospital every night and if something bad had happened, he thinks the coach would have told the team.
What Lowery wants this week is a win for LeGrand on Saturday, when the Scarlet Knights (4-2, 1-0 Big East) are in Pittsburgh to play the Panthers (3-3, 1-0).
“Not just one (win), everything we do we want to do it for him,” Lowery said. “When I come out on this practice field and some days you don’t feel like practicing, think of him, and I’ll bet your mind gets back on track. If I have a homework or paper to do, and I don’t feel like doing it, think of him, and I’ll do it.
“So it’s just not this one game, it’s everything,” said Lowery, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the 23-20 overtime win over Army last weekend.
Offensive tackle Desmond Stapleton said everyone on the team is playing to honor LeGrand, who grew up roughly 15 minutes from Rutgers Stadium.
“We pray for him every day that he gets better, and his recovery time is speeded up,” Stapleton said. “It going to be hard not being out there on the field with him.”
NOTES: Rutgers receiver and wildcat quarterback Mohamed Sanu wore a boot on his right foot and did not practice for the second straight day. His status for Saturday’s game is uncertain, Schiano said.