TULSA -- A Tulane football player is in critical condition after a helmet-to-helmet collision with a teammate during the University of Tulsa's home-opener on Saturday, a hospital official confirmed.
Devon Walker, 21, was taken off the field at Chapman Stadium and transported to a Tulsa hospital in serious condition, an EMSA spokesperson said. Upon arrival to St. Francis, hospital staff changed his condition to critical.
According to Buddy Savoie, a Tulane team doctor, Walker suffered a "cervical spine fracture" and "edema," which is defined in medical journals as swelling caused by fluid in the body's tissue.
Walker is in traction and will undergo surgery in coming days, Savoie said.
The injury to Walker occurred on the last play of the first half. Walker, who is a senior safety, collided with teammate Julius Warmsley while trying to tackle Tulsa halfback Willie Carter.
Walker then rolled on his back and didn't move. It appeared as though medical crews were administering CPR as he lay motionless.
"He was conscious and he never completely lost consciousness," Savoie said. "He was breathing, and I think the emergency response from Danny Taylor, our head trainer, was superb as he stabilized him. It went as well as it could go... I do not think based on the information that I have that his life was ever in danger or at risk. I think the medical staff, both our Tulane trainers and Tulsa medical team did a fantastic job stabilizing this young man with a severe injury."
Players, trainers and coaches were on the field crying as crews attended to Walker, and a chaplain offered a prayer over the stadium's public address system.
Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship remained by Walker's side until he was taken off the field about a half hour later.
Walker's brother, Raynard, told The Associated Press that their mother was watching the game on television when her son was injured.
Walker is a former walk-on player who earned a scholarship. He is majoring in cell and molecular biology.
After halftime, the game resumed. TU won 45-10.
In a statement on Sunday, Tulsa said it has received many requests from the community for information on how to assist Walker and his family. The university said it will make an announcement on Monday, detailing where friends and fans may contribute financial and in-kind gifts.
Note: ESPN and other outlets were quick to report Saturday that Walker had a broken neck and a collapsed lung. News On 6 was unable to verify those reports. Another Tulane team doctor, Greg Stewart, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, published on Sunday, that the reports by ESPN and others were untrue. Stewart also told the newspaper that it is too early to tell if Walker will experience paralysis.