Friday, December 13, 2002
Once-paralyzed player can walk on his own
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Adam Taliaferro, back at Penn State
for the first time since a neck injury left him paralyzed, made it
clear that he intends to help the Nittany Lions win.
"Coach told me they want me to be out there, just helping any
way I can with the defensive backs," the former football player
said Saturday before Penn State's basketball game against Michigan
State. "I'm still going to be lifting with the guys and running
with the guys, but they want me to evaluate tape and help break it
The 19-year-old freshman cornerback from Voorhees, N.J., was
injured in a September game against Ohio State.
Doctors initially were unsure whether Taliaferro would ever
walk, but he has undergone a remarkable recovery, going home on
crutches just three months after he was hurt.
Taliaferro now can walk unassisted, although he still favors his
left leg, and he is working with therapists to unclench his right
hand. But his physical therapy sessions, which once lasted five
hours a day, are down to two hours, and he says next week he will
begin working out in a gym and doing water exercises.
Taliaferro said he still hoped to run in front of his teammates
when they come out of the locker room Sept. 2 to face Miami (Fla.)
in their home opener.
"That's what I'm hoping," Taliaferro said. "Now that the
walking is going good, in therapy I'm working on getting up to a
jog. I'm still a little ways away, but I think it should be a
possibility I'll be able to do that by the time we play Miami."
Taliaferro was injured Sept. 23 while making a headfirst tackle
in a 45-6 loss at Ohio State. His head hit the knee of running back
Jerry Westbrooks and snapped backward, shattering a bone in his
neck. His spinal cord was severely bruised but not severed.
After being stabilized on the field by Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli,
Penn State's team doctor, Taliaferro was rushed to Ohio State
Medical Center, where doctors performed surgery to repair and set
the bones in his neck.
"I was blessed that the swelling in my spinal cord wasn't that
severe. The doctors -- Dr. Sebastianelli and the Ohio State doctors
-- they handled me perfectly, and everything went perfect. They got
me back to where I am today," Taliaferro said.
"I was nervous, and I knew I was paralyzed, but I always knew I
was going to walk again."
Taliaferro was later transferred to Thomas Jefferson University
Hospital in Philadelphia to be closer to his home, and on Oct. 6 to
Magee Rehabilitation Hospital. Both Jefferson and Magee are part of
the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center.
He left Magee on crutches Jan. 5, just days after his 19th
birthday. Since then, his physical therapy sessions have been
gradually reduced from four-plus hours a day.
Taliaferro returned to campus on Friday and enrolled in summer
school classes, then spent the evening with his teammates.
"The ordeal is coming to an end," his father, Andre
Taliaferro, said. "He's going to get a chance to resume what his
college life is all about, except for the football - except for the
playing, he'll still be involved in the football."