Doctors cool gymnast’s body to treat severe spinal-cord injury
Sunday, February 27, 2011 03:00 AM
By Howard Cohen

MIAMI — A double flip gone wrong sent a 20-year-old state-champion gymnast to the hospital recently with a bilateral dislocation of two vertebrae.

Jorge Valdez had attempted the double flip at a gym near South Miami-Dade, Fla., while practicing for tryouts for a Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil production. During his routine, he landed squarely on his head.

The resulting spinal-cord injury led to nearly complete motor and sensory failure, doctors said — no movement in his legs or hands, and minimal arm movement.

Valdez was flown to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, and the prognosis wasn’t great. Initially, doctors were not sure whether he would walk again, let alone return to gymnastics.

Two weeks later, Valdez walked out of the hospital, ready to resume practice. Also remarkable, he won’t need rehabilitation, his doctors say.

Valdez’s unusual outcome is credited to hypothermic treatment, a relatively new procedure that uses cold for victims of severe trauma to reduce swelling and inflammation. Dr. Steven Vanni of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine performed the procedure.