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Tulane football player fractures spine in game at Tulsa

By the CNN Wire Staff
September 9, 2012 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
Devon Walker of Tulane (facing the camera) is shown in the instant before he collided with a teammate.
Devon Walker of Tulane (facing the camera) is shown in the instant before he collided with a teammate.
  • NEW: Arkansas player Tevin Mitchel is also injured in a major hit Saturday
  • Walker, a Tulane safety, is hurt while playing against Tulsa
  • He is escorted off the field and is now stable and in traction at a hospital
  • A doctor says Walker has a "cervical spine fracture" and an edema in his neck

(CNN) -- A Tulane University football player was hospitalized after fracturing his spine during a game Saturday, leaving him motionless on the field, a team doctor said.

Devon Walker was injured when he collided head-on with one of his teammates while trying to tackle a Tulsa ball carrier near the end of the first half in the two teams' game.

The Tulane senior lay motionless on the Tulsa field as trainers and doctors rushed onto the field.

Dr. Felix Savoie, orthopedist for Tulane University and chief of sports medicine at the school, said Walker "never completely lost consciousness" and was breathing throughout the ordeal.

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"It went as well as it can go," Savoie said of the emergency aid effort, complimenting the Tulsa medical staff and Tulane trainers for effectively stabilizing Walker. "I do not think, based on the information we have, that his life was ever in danger."

Walker, 21, is a senior at Tulane majoring in cell and molecular biology.
Walker, 21, is a senior at Tulane majoring in cell and molecular biology.

Savoie said Walker has a "cervical spine fracture" as well as an edema -- or swelling from a build-up of excess fluid -- in his neck.

Walker was in traction and in stable condition Saturday night at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, according to the Tulane doctor.

"The plan currently is for him to have surgery in the next day or two," Savoie said. "There are great spine surgeons and neurosurgeons involved. That's kind of all we know at this point."

According to his bio on the Tulane athletics website, Walker is a 21-year-old senior majoring in cell and molecular biology. The New Orleans native -- who weighs 173 pounds and stands 6 feet 1 inch tall -- plays safety for the Green Wave, a team he's played with since walking onto the team and playing nine games as a freshman.

Tulane, which was trailing 35-3 at the time of Walker's injury, went on to lose the game at H.A. Chapman Stadium by a 45-10 score.

Tulsa's coach Bill Blankenship later issued a statement, posted on the football team's Twitter page, saying, "Our hearts and prayers are with Devon Walker right now and his family."

After the game, Green Wave head coach Curtis Johnson explained how he'd told his players after Walker went down to "play one play at a time and let's do what Devon would do -- ... go out and play his butt off."

The coach described the mood in Tulane's locker room as "somber," calling Saturday "one of the most difficult days ever."

"I thought about just saying, 'Hey, look, let's not even do anything else, let's just get on the road and go," he said.

Walker is planning to attend medical school after graduation, according to Johnson. He described the senior as a "self-made man" who was "probably the emotional leader" of his time, thanks to his "infectious" spirit.

"He loves life, and he loves football," Johnson said. "(Walker is) a very, very good kid, a very smart kid."

Walker isn't the only football player who suffered a frightening injury Saturday.

Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel was carted off the field on a stretcher after a big hit during the Razorbacks' game against the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Mitchel "has suffered an injury above the shoulders but is responsive," the Arkansas football team tweeted.

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CNN's Jillian Martin contributed to this report.

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