Knights' Alex McKinnon has 'devastating spinal injury'
THE playing career of Newcastle's Alex McKinnon remains clouded after surgeons yesterday performed emergency surgery to remove a crushed disc and performed delicate fusion surgery to stabilise his broken neck and relieve pressure on his spinal cord.
The Knights issued a statement late yesterday saying scans had confirmed a "devastating" spinal injury.
While McKinnon had movement in his right arm he may yet require further surgery to stabilise his spine.
Doctors have told his parents, Scott and Kate, who flew from Newcastle to Melbourne yesterday to be by their son's beside, his regeneration and recovery could take up to two years.
McKinnon, 22, broke his neck when tackled by Melbourne Storm forwards Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Jordan McLean just before half time.
The NRL's match committee yesterday charged McLean with a dangerous throw, but referred it to the NRL judiciary who in turn decided to defer McLean's hearing "out of respect for McKinnon and his family".
Despite not being found guilty of any charge, the NRL said McLean would be stood down from this weekend's clash with Canterbury in Perth - a decision Storm officials may yet challenge.
Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett, who has guided McKinnon's career since he was a member of the Dragon's U20 side in 2009, was visibly shaken when he spoke about the Aberdeen junior's terrible injury.
"It's sad and we are extremely disappointed for him," he told reporters.
Bennett said his players got together after the game on Monday night to deal with things emotionally.
He didn't want to be critical of the tackle that put McKinnon in hospital saying it was up to the NRL's judiciary to look at.
"I've played since I was a little boy and this is the first time I have been involved in an incident like this," said Bennett. "They are infrequent, thank god."
Asked about his close relationship with McKinnon, a former Junior Kangaroos captain, Bennett described him as "an outstanding young man".
"If you asked me if he was one of my favourites? Yes, I'd probably say he was," said Bennett. "I imagine one day he'll captain the club here, I hope."
EARLIER: NEWCASTLE Knights' Alex McKinnon may face further surgery after suffering a 'devastating spinal injury'.
News Corp reported that 22-year-old McKinnon had been placed in an induced coma on Tuesday, the morning after he was stretchered off AAMI Park after a three-man tackle in the NRL match against the Melbourne Storm.
In a statement on its website, the Knights said that on Monday night scan results for McKinnon confirmed a dislocation at C4 and C5.
McKinnon had emergency surgery early on Tuesday morning to stabilise his neck, which consisted of a disc removal at C4 and C5 and anterior fusion, the statement said.
"Alex had additional scans on Tuesday afternoon, which confirmed a devastating spinal injury.
"Alex remains in hospital in intensive care and may require further surgery to stabilise his spine.
"He has movement in his right arm and the uncertainty remains in regeneration, with a variable prognosis.
"The doctors explained regeneration and recovery could be up to two years.
"Family and Club officials remain with Alex in hospital. The club requests Alex and his family's privacy is respected at this time.''