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The Use of Systemic Hypothermia for the Treatment of an Acute Cervical Spinal Cord Injury in a Professional Football Player

Cappuccino, Andrew MD*†; Bisson, Leslie J. MD†‡§; Carpenter, Bud ATC; Marzo, John MD†‡; Dietrich, W Dalton III PhD; Cappuccino, Helen MD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181b9dc28
Case Reports

Study Design. Case Report.

Objective. We will describe the injury and clinical course of an NFL Football player who sustained a complete spinal cord injury and was treated with conventional care in addition to modest systemic hypothermia.

Summary of Background Data. Systemically induced moderate hypothermia is a potentially neuroprotective intervention in acute spinal cord injury. However, case descriptions of human patients receiving systemic hypothermia after spinal cord injuries are lacking in the literature.

Methods. Here, we present the case of a National Football League player who sustained a complete (ASIA A) spinal cord injury from a C3/4 fracture dislocation. Moderate systemic hypothermia was instituted immediately after his injury, in addition to standard medical/surgical treatment, including, surgical decompression and intravenous methylprednisolone.

Results. The patient experienced significant and rapid neurologic improvement, and within weeks of his injury was walking with harness assistance. Since that time, the patient has continued to make significant progress in his rehabilitation (now ASIA D).

Conclusion. The extent to which this hypothermia contributed to his neurologic recovery is difficult to determine. It is hoped that this case will draw attention to the need for further preclinical and clinical studies to elucidate the role of hypothermia in acute spinal cord injury. Until these studies are completed, it is impossible to advocate for systemic hypothermia as a standard of care.

This is a case of an NFL player who sustained a complete (ASIA A) spinal cord injury from a C3/4 fracture dislocation. Moderate systemic hypothermia was used in addition to standard medical/surgical treatment. His recovery was better and quicker than expected (ASIA D). The possible role of hypothermia is discussed.

From the *Buffalo Spine Surgery, Lockport, NY; †Team Orthopedic Surgeon Buffalo Bills, Buffalo, NY; ‡Department of Orthopedics, State University of New York at Buffalo; §Team Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo, NY; ¶The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL; and ∥Roswell Park Cancer Institute, University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Buffalo, NY.

Acknowledgment date: November 25, 2008. First revision date: May 14, 2009. Second revision date: June 3, 2009. Acceptance date: June 8, 2009.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint request to Andrew Cappuccino, 46 Davison Ct, Lockport, NY 14094; E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.