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Athlete+s injury goes unnoticed

Jan. 31, 1997

Athlete's injury goes unnoticed

Linebacker says he was cleared to play despite complaints of neck pain


The Associated Press

DALLAS -- Bears linebacker Dean Jackson says he played with a broken neck for eight games last season after the team's medical staff failed to diagnose the injury.

Jackson, a two-year starter who led the Bears in tackles and interceptions last season, told The Dallas Morning News in Thursday editions that the University had its doctors take X-rays soon after the game against Oregon State on Sept. 21.

No fracture was found, but Jackson said his neck didn't feel right and he complained to University trainers time and again in the next few weeks.

'I was in such pain the whole season, but they kept telling me it was muscle spasms,' Jackson said.

Teammate Robert Mason, a Houston senior, knew of Jackson's injury and doesn't believe the University's coaching staff did all that could be done to help Jackson.

'I do not think they intentionally left him out there, but they did not want to really find out,' Mason said.

Former University head coach, Chuck Reedy, denies Mason's statement. Reedy said that the trainers, not his staff, made the judgment calls on whether players could play or not.

'We never had a guy out there that was not cleared by the trainers,' Reedy said.

The University medical staff, who found no fracture in Jackson's first X-ray, performed a magnetic imaging exam after the season was over,and found a break in the fifth cervical vertebra was found.

University medical officials dispute when the injury occurred. Dr. R.W. Covington said the break occurred in the final game, Nov. 23 against Oklahoma, because the X-rays taken in December did not show signs of healing. He said a 2-month-old injury would have shown scar tissue.

The University's director of sports medicine, Mike Sims, said the X-rays taken on Sept. 23 did not reveal a fracture. He said it was possible, although unlikely, that the break existed at that time but could not be detected.

Sims added that the primary concern of the medical staff is the health of the athletes.

Jackson said he hurt his neck in the second quarter of the Oregon State game in Waco when he lowered his head to take on a charging fullback.

He recalls lying on the turf of Floyd Casey stadium, scared and unable to feel his extremities. After a minute or so he could feel trainers squeezing his hands, he said.

After that game, Reedy said that Jackson was a regular topic of discussion in daily meetings.

'I kept a daily log of the season,' Reedy said. 'Dean was on the injured list almost every day starting in September.'

Jackson said that by December he was taking 12 pain-killing tablets a day.

The injury was discovered when he went back to University officials in mid-December to insist on further tests.

Dr. James E. Rose, a Houston neurosurgeon, examined Jackson and advised immediate surgery, which Rose performed on Dec. 23.

Rose said he has no doubt the injury occurred on Sept. 21. He said he bases his conclusion on the initial X-rays and on Jackson's subsequent pain.

'It's not brain surgery, if you'll pardon the pun,' Rose said. 'If you hurt your neck, you'd know when you did it.'

Jackson remains on a football scholarship and said he is not considering a lawsuit.

'I'm trying not to be mad,' said Jackson, who said he may attempt a comeback against doctors' advice. 'I know I was lucky.'

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