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Back and neck safety for football players - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Back and neck safety for football players

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A Tulane University football player who fractured his spine during a head-on collision with a teammate this weekend is "alert and responsive" after surgery Monday. 

Devon Walker had screws and plates inserted into his spine to stabilize it. It happened in a game against the University of Tulsa. 

With football season in full swing in Southeast Texas there are of course concerns about keeping student athletes safe. A local head coach and fitness instructors gave 12 News HD some tips to share. 

Whether you consider it a freak accident or just a part of the game the injury suffered by Tulane's Devon Walker in Saturday's game was hard to watch. 

Tulane University doctors say Walker suffered a ' cervical spine fracture ' and had swelling in his neck. 

Ozen head football coach Jeff Nelson saw a player suffer a similar injury during his playing days at Texas A&M University.  

"He regained most of his mobility about 2 or 3 years later," Coach Nelson said. 

 Now it's Nelson's duty to keep his player safe from similar neck and spinal injuries. Coach Nelson says one way is teaching proper tackling technique. 

 "Never lead with the crown of your helmet. You never want to approach an opposing player whether you're blocking or tackling with your helmet down," Coach Nelson said. 
     
But in cases like Walker's where he collided with teammate Julius Warmsley, the angle at which a player hits another may be out of his control.
 
There are still ways to lessen the chance of an injury. 

Fitness instructors suggest exercises that work the neck muscles like this one which provides resistance and forces the muscles in the neck to contract. 

Instructors also suggest shoulder shrugs to work the trapezius muscles, vital muscles for neck and back stability. 

While those specific exercises help, Nelson says keeping the body in peak physical shape along with discipline goes a long way too. 

"Keeping an athlete in shape is keeping an athletes ability to think," Coach Nelson said. 

You don't have to have any fancy equipment to perform those exercises. A pair of dumb bells will work for shrugs. 

And simply having a friend provide resistance while you push against their hands can make for an easy neck workout. 

 Doctors say it's too soon to tell if Walker will be paralyzed. His football equipment was inspected and no problems were found. 

 

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