Catawba player walking thanks to trainer, surgeons

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — A Catawba College football player who broke two vertebrae in his neck Saturday during practice is walking again thanks to a quick response by medical personnel.
Head athletic trainer Bob Casmus was on the field when the collision occurred between Tyrone Johnson, a defensive back, and his teammates as they leapt for the ball.
“It was very intense and somewhat violent,” Casmus said.
As he walked toward Johnson, Casmus saw the player’s arm and feet moving.
“When I got closer, he told me his neck really hurt and he couldn’t move it,” he said.
That’s when Casmus’ training as a certified licensed athletic trainer kicked in.
He stabilized Johnson on the field and gave him a thorough exam as they waited for emergency personnel to arrive.
“We treat every potential traumatic spine injury in this fashion because nobody has X-ray eyes on the field.”
Radiological scans taken at Rowan-Regional Medical Center showed Johnson would need advanced surgery.
His equipment was removed before he was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
“The equipment was removed as one unit,” Casmus said. “You can’t just rip that stuff off and risk further injury.”
Johnson received surgery Sunday and is set to leave the hospital this afternoon. He plans to return to Catawba on Sunday for the start of classes Monday.
When a Post reporter called the hospital this morning, his grandmother Shirley Johnson reported that he was walking around without using a cane or walker and going through physical therapy.
“He’s pretty well on the mend,” she said.
Shirley Johnson said Casmus was at the hospital with Tyrone the entire day Saturday.
“He never left his side,’ she said. “He was with him through the whole process making sure everything was done correctly.”
For that, she is thankful.
“It makes me feel so good that he treated him like he was his own,” she said. “I can’t thank him enough.
Tyrone Johnson won’t be playing football this season, but his grandmother said he could eventually reappear on the field.
The Fayetteville native and physical education major has played football since the age of 6 and said he would love to get back in the game. But if that doesn’t happen, he’s glad he can live a normal life.
“I’m going to take this opportunity to focus and try to get my grades up,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be able to go home so quickly after this accident.”
Read the complete story in Wednesday’s Post.