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USC's Stafon Johnson critical but stable

USC running back Stafon Johnson injures throat in weight-lifting accident Monday, required emergency surgery; in critical but stable condition
September 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
USC Trojans running back Stafon Johnson injured his throat in a weightlifting accident.A USC football star was in the fight of his life Monday night. Running back Stafon Johnson was out of the operating room Monday night after hours of emergency throat surgery after a weight-lifting accident. Johnson was in critical condition Monday night.

Star player number 13 Stafon Johnson leads the Trojans with five touchdowns and is the team's second-leading rusher, but Monday night his football future is uncertain after a freak weight-training accident.

"The bar came down on his neck and it was at the end of routine that he was doing, and unfortunately it hit him wrong and we rushed him to the hospital to make sure that he is OK," said USC football coach Pete Carroll.

The USC running back was bench-pressing when the 275-pound bar slipped from his right hand and landed on his throat. Johnson was being spotted by an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the time of the accident Monday morning.

Johnson was rushed to the hospital after reportedly coughing blood.

Former USC fullback and college football analyst Brandon Hancock knows Johnson, and says while weight training is an integral part of a player's routine, he has never heard an accident like this one.

I've seen it occur where there have been people that dropped a bar, but usually it lands on their chest or stomach or something where you have a lot more muscle density to protect yourself," said Hancock. "Obviously, when it's in your neck region, that's when serious problems occur."

Monday night, Johnson's family and teammates were gathered at California Hospital Medical Center where Johnson spent most of the day and night in surgery.

Head and neck surgeon Dr. Marc Kerner discussed Johnson's chances for recovery:

"A lot of people do not survive high-speed injuries to the throat like this," said Dr. Kerner. "The low-velocity heavy weight, even though it can cause significant damage, if it's recognized quickly and you're brought to medical attention quickly, and it's dealt with appropriately, then you can survive these injuries and be treated successfully."

"For a young man like Stafon, especially where he is in his career and how well he's been doing, you just hate to hear of anything negative like this happening, especially in his senior year where he is at right now as a player," said Hancock.

A California Hospital Medical Center spokesperson released a statement Monday night: "Doctors say Johnson's prognosis is good. While he will likely not play football for the rest of this season, he is expected to make a full recovery and he is expected to play football again."

"It was an unfortunate accident and Stafon is getting great care right now," coach Pete Carroll said on the team's official Web site. "We don't have a lot of information at this point and we'll keep everyone updated, but our thoughts and prayers are with Stafon."

Head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle said Johnson was using a spotter when the accident occurred.

"I've seen players have the bar slip and fall onto their chest, but never in my 25 years of coaching have I heard of someone dropping a bar on their throat," Carlisle said. "We're fortunate he was being spotted."

Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior from Compton, Calif., is the Trojans' second-leading rusher and goal-line specialist. He's rushed 32 times for 157 yards this year and leads the team with five touchdowns. He entered the season with 1,395 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

Johnson's absence likely means more carries for 235-pound junior Allen Bradford or perhaps 225-pound sophomore Marc Tyler.

Eyewitness News Reporters Leslie Miller and Curt Sandoval and ESPN.com contributed to this report.

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