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Steelers

Ryan Shazier 'has already beaten the odds,' former NFL doctor says

Ben Schmitt
| Friday, April 27, 2018, 1:00 p.m.
Ryan Shazier, right, walks with his wife Michelle to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers selection in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Ryan Shazier, right, walks with his wife Michelle to announce the Pittsburgh Steelers selection in the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier appears to be beating the odds by showing off his ability to walk, a former NFL team doctor said Friday.

"Where he is at is fantastic," said Dr. David Chao, an orthopedic surgeon who worked 17 years as team doctor for the former San Diego Chargers. "I think it shows tremendous progress."

Shazier, who suffered a spinal cord injury during a game in December, walked to the podium Thursday night during the NFL draft to announce the Steelers' No. 1 draft choice.

"To me, it was a memorable moment for the draft," Chao said. "I was cheering. I think it's fantastic that he walked on stage."

Shazier suffered the injury Dec. 4 during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. UPMC doctors performed spinal stabilization surgery on Shazier a few days after the injury. He was released from UPMC Rehabilitation Institute in February and is continuing outpatient therapy.

"The way he went down and rolled over was the biggest visceral feeling I have ever had in seeing an injury to a player I didn't know or have an attachment to," Chao said. "I hope he continues to get better."

Chao writes columns from a medical expert's perspective for the San Diego Union-Tribune's ProFootballDoc . He has previously written about Shazier's injury and prognosis.

He said spinal stabilization surgery generally involves inserting hardware such as rods and screws to stabilize the spine and promote neurological healing. Recovery can take as long as six months.

"The issue of course is the residual neurological effects, and we still don't know yet," Chao said. "I'd say he has already beaten the odds, and I look forward to seeing how much further he can go."

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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