Reggie Brown of the Detroit Lions stepped from a wheelchair and walked to the podium Wednesday, and that was a triumph in itself.
“When it first happened, I thought I’d never be able to walk again,” he said, wearing a halo-style neck brace. “It was a freak accident. I’m looking forward to getting back home and getting my life together.”
The 23-year-old linebacker, recovering from a severe neck injury in a Dec. 21 game, was characterized by his doctors as a “dream” patient who has made “dramatic” progress.
He almost certainly is done with football, but he is walking.
“I wanted to let everyone know that I’m OK, that I will once again be back to normal,” he said during a news conference at Henry Ford Hospital. “And I’m real thankful for all the cards and get-well wishes and blessings.”
He will be transferred today to The Institute of Rehabilitation and Research in Houston.
It was Brown’s first public statement since the Lions’ last regular-season game. He was hurt during a fourth-quarter tackle in a 13-10 victory over the New York Jets. A collision with a teammate dislocated Brown’s top two neck vertebrae, bruising his spinal cord and leaving him unable to breathe and with no feeling below the neck. A doctor gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the field.
The next day, doctors fused the vertebrae and grafted a slice of hip bone to stabilize those bones.
Brown’s recovery puts him in the top 2 percent of patients who sustain such injuries, said Dr. Russ Nockels. Many people with similar injuries die.
In measuring his strength, in which 100 percent is normal, Brown was at 49 percent when admitted.
“Now after two weeks, he’s progressed to the point of 89 … dramatic improvement,” Nockels said.