Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Societal Benefit from Professional Sports

Athletes are great test cases (i.e., guinea pigs) for experimental medical techniques that can eventually benefit many other. The latest example? Buffalo Bill player Kevin Everett:

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Kevin Everett voluntarily moved his arms and legs on Tuesday when partially awakened, prompting a neurosurgeon to say the Buffalo Bills' tight end would walk again -- contrary to the grim prognosis given a day before.

"Based on our experience, the fact that he's moving so well, so early after such a catastrophic injury means he will walk again," said Dr. Barth Green, chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Miami school of medicine.

"It's totally spectacular, totally unexpected," Green told The Associated Press by telephone from Miami.
Here's a brief description of the "Gee whiz!" technique behind this potential miracle of science:
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.

"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.
It appears that the reason they had this available in Buffalo for the game was because Bills' owner Ralph Wilson is one of the large donors behind The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. I imagine that by next season many more teams in the NFL will have this available in stadium for immediate use if needed, as will many colleges. I also imagine that in a few years EMTs will be trained and equipped for using this technique on car accident victims and the like.

Professional athletes earn their money not just by being particularly good at given games, but also because they're guinea pigs for cutting edge medical science.

Ain't science grand?

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