Ten years ago today, September 9th, 2007 was going to be a day just like any other in Buffalo Bills history. It was the season opener for the Bills against the Denver Broncos. It was the first games for Marshawn Lynch and Paul Posluszny and a slow start into the 2nd season of the Dick Jauron era. The Drought was 7, going on 8 years after that season and still to this point hasn’t stopped. But on this date in 2007, TE Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills nearly died on the field of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
At the beginning of the 2nd half kickoff, Everett was running downfield during kick coverage, attempting to tackle kick returner Domenik Hixon when Hixon collided with Everett’s head and Everett collapsed to the ground. There is video here to recount that moment. Up to that point, Everett was a 3rd year backup TE and special teams player, having only recorded 2 receptions for 4 years in his career.
Upon impact, Everett sustained direct compression to the cervical spinal cord, initially paralyzing him and at that moment, nearly killing him. Upon falling to the turf motionless, Everett sustained a dislocation of the cervical vertebrae at C3-C4. As the spinal cord travels through the cervical vertebrae, the dislocation compressed directly on his spinal cord, which if left untreated, could have killed him. To educate how severe this injury could have been, the phrenic nerve is the nerve that innervates into the diaphragm which assists in breathing. The phrenic nerve is comprised of C3, C4, C5 within the cervical spine. This is right where the injury occurred, f that nerve were to be severely damaged or severed, the body would lose the ability to breath.
The cervical vertebrae that were damaged assist in maintaining neck posture, supporting the weight of the head, and bend forward/backward, and sidebend the neck. Since the vertebrae dislocated over the vertebrae below it, this placed a significant pressure on the spinal cord, leading to immediate disruption to the functions below the area and without quick action, could cause lasting injury. The only reason this injury was not worse was the fact that there was not a severance of the spinal cord, leading to irreparable damage.
In another era, Kevin Everett probably would have died, at worst, been a paraplegic, due to the damage sustained. Thankfully, he sustained the injury where he did and was able to get the assistance he needed right away. Dr. Andrew Cappuccino assisted in stabilizing the injury and applying cold therapy to the body. This is very similar to placing ice on a sprained ankle after injury. The idea was that if cold was applied to the spinal cord, this would reduce the chances of immediate swelling to the injured area, leading to reduced long term damage.
Cappuccino’s theory appeared to work as while Everett’s prognosis was initially grim, it rapidly improved once surgery was completed to stabilize the cervical region. On December 23rd, he was able to eventually walk at the end of the season when the Bills played the NY Giants at Ralph Wilson Stadium. With quick thinking by the right doctors, the lack of spinal cord severing, and determination, Everett was able to regain walking and a significant portion of his mobility. Many other people in his situation may have died or been paralyzed for life.
It is hard to believe that it is 10 years since Kevin Everett sustained his neck injury. There is not many articles regarding life for Everett following his injury. Most articles state that he has begun raising his family with his wife and participated in speaking engagements. The Buffalo News did an article on Everett and his family several years ago, detailing the long term effects of the injury.
As we get further away from that moment in time, it slowly becomes a footnote in history. My goal with today’s post was to bring it to the forefront, even just for a brief moment. While as a professional and fan, I pray this never happens to any player again. As fans, we know that football is a violent sport, there are risks both short and long term. It is important that we recognize that a player’s career and possibly even life, could end in a moment on the field. As we all sit down to watch the Bills home opener against the Jets on Sunday, remember Kevin Everett and the events of 10 years ago.