Tackling Spinal Trauma

After decades of hopelessness, researchers are developing drugs that limit spinal-cord damage, encourage nerve growth and might someday even reverse paralysis

IT WAS NOT A CRUNCH OR A MOAN BUT a horrified hush spreading through the crowd that signaled the ghastly instant. On the Astroturf at Giants stadium, Jets defensive lineman Dennis Byrd lay motionless, unable to move his hands or legs. With all the power of his 266 lbs. of hurtling flesh, Byrd had unintentionally rammed his helmeted head into the chest of his 275-lb. teammate Scott Mersereau. The impact crumpled a vertebra in Byrd's neck, crushing part of the underlying spinal cord as well as plunging dagger-like slivers of bone into the soft, vital nerve tissue.

Byrd faces the possibility...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!