PITTSBURGH -- Doctors attending to Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive lineman Gabriel Rivera said Tuesday the rookie is paralyzed from the chest down from injuries suffered in a car crash last week and likely will never walk again.
Dr. Daniel L. Diamond, who has been in charge of Rivera since he was brought into Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital last Thursday night, said the former Texas Tech star has numerous fractures of the spine and will undergo an operation in a few days.
Diamond emphasized, however, that the operation will only be to stabilize the fractured verterbrae and will not improve Rivera's paralysis.
'The fractured area of the back needs to be stabilized. This is not something we expect will result in any improvement in his paralysis,' he told reporters. 'As each day passes, it is more and more unlikely that he (Rivera) will ever walk again.'
Diamond said Rivera, 22 and the Steelers No. 1 pick in this spring's draft, has fractured the verterbrae in his upper chest, between the shoulder blades.
Doctors will attempt to graft the bones in Rivera's back and insert metal rods to hold the spine in place, Diamond said. If the operation is not performed, Rivera's upper body would lean and eventually 'just slide off the lower spine,' he said.
In addition to his paralysis, Rivera also injured his right arm, but doctors are hopeful the arm can be returned to full strength.
Diamond said doctors believe Rivera's life is in no immediate danger.
He is in serious but stable condition in Allegheny General, where his wife of five months, Kim, and his parents are with him. Kim is expecting the couple's first child in a few months.
Because he has a tube in his throat and is on a respirator, Rivera has not been able to talk to his family, but can communicate and seems to know what is going on, Diamond said.
The accident occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday after Rivera left Julian's, a Pittsburgh restaurant and bar.
Rivera's car crossed the center line and collided head-on with a car driven by Allen Watts, 48, and was thrown from his late-model Datsun 280-Z, police said. Watts, of Ross Township, was not injured.
Police have charged Rivera with drunken driving, reckless driving and speeding in the accident, although two television reporters who were with Rivera that night say he did not appear intoxicated when he left the bar.
Contacted Tuesday in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech football coach Jerry Moore said, 'Boy, that's tragic. I've talked to the doctors and his parents from time to time but have never talked to him (since the accident). All of us were keeping our hopes up that this wouldn't happen.
'It's always a depressing thing, I think particularly so in the circumstances of Gabe,' he said. 'He had done so well here in his senior year. Everybody had such high expectations for him. It just wipes out all the good things he worked so hard to get.'