Tragic injuries in high-profile sports can grab the national attention shine a spotlight on both the hazards and the treatment. This was the case when Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills football team suffered a spinal injury during a routine play. Damage to the spinal cord is often devastating, because it serves as a pipeline for sensory information coming into the brain from the body, and for motor commands going out from the brain to the body. Doctors did not expect Everett to walk again.
But now he is showing hopeful signs, such as wiggling his toes. Doctors cannot say which of the treatments they are using deserves the credit for keeping the spinal damage to a minimum. (This is not an experiment, after all. They are trying several things at once, rather than deliberately manipulating only the variable they are interested in.) But the most intriguing possibility is that they have controlled the damage by controlling Everett’s body temperature.