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Injured Player's Gains Turn Attention to Cold Treatment

After US football's Kevin Everett damaged his spine, doctors quickly lowered his body temperature. But studies of hypothermia therapy have produced mixed results. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

On September ninth, American football player Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills tried to bring down an opponent. There seemed to be nothing unusual about what he did. The twenty-five-year-old Everett put his head down and, with his helmet, crashed into the other player to tackle him.

But it was Kevin Everett who immediately went down. He had severely injured his spine. He could not move.

Even before an ambulance drove him to a hospital, doctors tried an experimental treatment to limit the damage. They wanted to prevent his spinal cord from swelling and destroying nerves.

In the ambulance, the doctors injected cold saline, or salt water, into his blood system. This brought his body temperature down to about thirty-three degrees Celsius -- about four degrees below normal.

This kind of treatment is sometimes called hypothermia therapy.

At the hospital, doctors performed an emergency operation to repair broken bones in his spine and put it back in the correct position. But they also continued the cooling treatment. Kevin Everett received cold saline through a tube into his body for about twenty-four hours.

Spinal injuries like these are often life-threatening and almost always completely disabling.

Within three days, however, he had some movement again in his arms and legs. How much he might recover is still not clear. But the doctors involved with his care have said they believe the cooling treatment is at least party responsible for his progress.

Cooling treatment is common for people who have had strokes. The treatment is also used with people whose hearts have stopped and been restarted. In both situations, doctors hope to limit nerve damage that can result from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Yet studies of hypothermia therapy have shown mixed results. In some cases it may lead to blockages in blood flow and damage to organs.

Doctors say cooling treatment for spinal injuries, to be effective, must begin immediately after the injury happens. But some doctors say there is no proof that Kevin Everett is improving because of hypothermia therapy. They suggest that his injuries were not as severe as doctors had first thought.

In any case, this past weekend, Kevin Everett sat up in his hospital bed for more than four hours. He also lifted his right arm for the first time.

And that's the VOA Special English HEALTH REPORT, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news, go to I’m Mario Ritter.