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USC football: Tailback Stafon Johnson recovering after surgery

September 29, 2009 | 12:24 pm

Doctor

USC tailback Stafon Johnson is doing well and his athletic fitness helped him pull through a serious weightlifting accident that required more than seven hours of throat surgery, a trauma expert said today.

Dr. Gudata Hinika, trauma director at California Hospital Medical Center, said during a news conference that Johnson was communicating nonverbally with family, friends and teammates while being weaned from a ventilator.

“His spirit is very good,” Hinika said.

Johnson was injured Monday when a bar fell on his neck during a weightlifting session at USC.

Hinika said Johnson underwent an emergency tracheotomy when he arrived at the hospital by ambulance. Surgeons then began reconstructive procedures.

“Had that been any one of us, meaning me, I would not have survived,” Hinika said. “His neck was so solid and so muscular, that actually helped maintain his airway.

“And the discipline one learns from being athletic also really helped him to calm down and just do what he needed to do. He took instruction very well. All those in combination ... contributed to his outcome.”

Hinika said it was a rare injury, especially for weightlifting.

“These are the type of injuries, usually it happens in the old days when people did not wear a seatbelt,” he said. “You get in an accident and you’re thrown through a windshield.”

Hinika said Johnson was being fed through a tube in his stomach. He did not give a timetable for Johnson’s recovery or when he might be released from the hospital. He said hospital staff were monitoring Johnson for infections and other complications.

Johnson will not play this season, but Hinika said he could play football in the future.

“We definitely are working very hard to get him better, for him and for the rest of his fans,” Hinika said. “So we expect him to be on the football field at some time.”

-- Gary Klein

Photo: Dr. Gudata Hinika talks to reporters about Stafon Johnson's condition during a press conference in front of California Hospital Medical Center on Tuesday. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

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