Marshall McDaniel: Neck and spine team helps teen recover from football accident

Published On 07/31/2012

It was Friday night and the biggest game of the season for senior Marshall McDaniel of Jonesboro, Ark. Jonesboro High School was playing Texarkana in the second round of the state football playoffs. What happened in the first seven seconds of the game would change Marshall’s life forever.

At kickoff, a Jonesboro High player blocked an opposing player, whose knee came crashing into Marshall’s neck. Marshall fell and the stadium grew silent, except for the whispers: “It’s Marshall.” His parents Ron and Sharon and younger brother, Weston, watched from the stands.

“You expect your son to lie there for a minute, and then another player help him up,” Sharon said. “He’ll jog up and down the sidelines to get his bearings back, and then he’ll go in at the next play.”

None of that happened. Instead, two orthopedic surgeons and a trainer were on the field in seconds. Marshall’s arms and legs were numb, but he could move his fingers and toes. An ambulance transported him to a local hospital where Marshall had a CT scan in full football uniform including helmet. His neck was broken. Marshall was quickly transported to Le Bonheur Children’s.

At Le Bonheur, Marshall would find new heroes in Neurosurgeon Michael Muhlbauer, MD, and Orthopedic surgeon William Warner, Jr., MD. Muhlbauer and Warner have teamed up for the past 20 years, specializing in treating neck and spinal injuries. When Marshall arrived at Le Bonheur, the surgeons removed the C6 vertebrae and placed four screws and two titanium strips in his back.

Just three days after surgery, Marshall returned home. After months in a brace, he recovered the strength in his neck. Now a student at Arkansas State University, Marshall wants to study physical therapy and help others get back to their normal activities.