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Central Catholic swimmer battles back from neck injury

Michael Love
| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Monroeville resident Adam Whisner swims the butterfly during an outdoor workout earlier this summer. Whisner, a freshman at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, continues to recover from a broken neck suffered during a meet on July 19, 2014.
Monroeville resident Adam Whisner swims the butterfly during an outdoor workout earlier this summer. Whisner, a freshman at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, continues to recover from a broken neck suffered during a meet on July 19, 2014.

Adam Whisner had his sights set on top times with his swims at the Allegheny Mountain Swimming Long Course Junior Olympics meet on July 19 at Pitt's Trees Pool.

The Monroeville resident also hoped to achieve a qualifying time in the 100-meter backstroke for the North Carolina Swimming Senior State Long Course Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Whisner's Greater Pittsburgh Aquatic Club team was taking part in the event for the first time, and he wanted to be there with his teammates.

However, an unforeseen set of circumstances during his 100 back finals swim at Pitt brought those goals to a screeching halt.

Whisner, 15,�suffered a broken neck when he hit the wall in a turn during his 100 back swim. He regrouped and finished the race, but he came in last.

His goggles started to fill with water as he moved through one of the laps.

“I couldn't see the (guide) flags. My counts were off,” he said.

He was checked for a concussion at Pitt, but there was no immediate sign of the neck injury. Late the next day, he felt pain in his neck, and his left arm was numb.

A trip to the hospital and an examination revealed the breaks in three bones in his neck. An MRI also was done to check for muscle or nerve damage.

No surgery was needed, however, as all were stable fractures. Whisner wore a neck brace for a couple of weeks.

Two of the bones have healed, and the third one is close, he said.

Whisner is to limit activities over the next couple of weeks, including no diving or contact sports, while the final fracture finishes healing.

“Right now, I feel good. It's much better than two weeks ago, that's for sure,” he said.

“I am happy I wasn't more seriously injured. At the same time, I was frustrated I wasn't able to qualify for North Carolina. But I have a lot more swims left.”

Whisner will be a freshman at Pittsburgh Central Catholic for the 2014-15 year, and, he said, he is looking forward to joining the Vikings varsity swim team.

“It could've been worse,” said Kellie Whisner, Adam's mother. “We are so blessed it wasn't more than it was. No one wants to break their neck, but the doctor said that if it happens, this was the type to have.

“His good health and athletic lifestyle has helped in the healing process. It contributed to the speed of the recovery.”

Whisner swims throughout the year for the Greater Pittsburgh Aquatic Club in Penn Hills. He also is a member of the Gateway Heights swim club in Monroeville.

Earlier this summer, he swam the boys 13-14 50-yard free at an event in a time of 24.00 seconds, and the time tied a club record that had been on the boards since 1975.

The neck injury also prevented him from taking part in the Eastern Swim Association Division I championships on July 26.

Whisner swam at the Eastern Zones in New York for the second time in March, and he fared well at that meet both times. The Eastern Zones is one of four such areas in the USA Swimming family, and it includes the top swimmers from states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

Whisner recorded top-10 times in every event except for the breaststroke in the 14 age group for the AMS 2014 season.

He started swimming in the ESA for Gateway Heights at the age of 7, and he also competed for the Monroeville Marlins fall/winter club for about six years. He set numerous Marlins club records before transitioning to Greater Pittsburgh.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or

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