Tulane safety Devon Walker was seriously injured during Tulsa’s 45-10 victory over Tulane, with reports indicating that Walker actually stopped breathing on the field and needed CPR and a tracheotomy.
Reports later indicated that Walker suffered a spine fracture after taking a blow to the head delivered by a teammate as they both attempted to make a tackle right before halftime of Saturday’s game against Tulsa in H.A. Chapman Stadium. After Walker was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, he was diagnosed with a cervical spine fracture and edema (swelling) in his spinal cord. Doctors say Walker will need spinal surgery and it’s not clear whether the injury has caused any paralysis.
But Tulane team Dr. Buddy Savoie seemed intent on downplaying the drama of the on field emergency. He said drama said Walker never lost consciousness and his life was never in danger, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“I think it went as well as it could go,” Savoie said. “There are always concerns about stability, but he is stable right now. He was stable when we transported him. I do not think based on the information we have that his life was ever in danger.”
Some sideline media reported seeing medical staff giving chest compressions consistent with CPR, and the Golden Hurricane’s trainer reportedly said Walker had a collapsed lung in addition to the broken neck.
The Tulsa World reported: “Medical personnel administered CPR as Walker was motionless at the north end of the field.”
Savoie did not say whether Walker had feeling or the ability to move his extremities. He did not respond to text messages from the Times-Picayune looking for more detail.
In the press conference, he did say Walker’s spine was swollen, that Walker was in traction (immobilized) and would need surgery in the next day or so.
“It was just a difficult day, probably the most difficult day ever,” Tulane first-year coach Curtis Johnson said after the game. “Just seeing one of our guys, one of our family members out on the ground, go in an ambulance. … I don’t know they could focus on what they are doing. … I thought about saying hey, let’s just not doing anything else. Let’s just get on the road and go and see Devon.”
“The current plan is for him to have surgery in the next one to two days,” the Tulane athletic department released in a statement. “He is being treated by specialists. The Tulsa physicians did a great job taking care of Devon.”
Walker is a hard worker in the classroom as well as on the field, where he made the team as a walk-on. Walker is a cell and molecular biology major with designs on becoming a pharmacist like his sister, Yolan Bender.