February 19, 2012 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Spartans' Carney Dealing Well with Recovery

by Taylor Lewis/CHN Reporter

On the phone, Michigan State freshman defenseman Branden Carney is composed. Talking about the incident that could have ended his hockey career, and possibly his life, doesn't seem to faze him.

"Once I hit, I felt a really sharp pain in my neck, and I tried to get up and couldn't really move," he said. "But I moved my arms and legs, and everything mobile-wise was alright."

Carney was just recently released from the protective halo he had been wearing since crashing head-first into the boards during a November practice. It's just the first step in a long recovery from fractures of his C1 and C2 vertebrae — the same injury that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby may have suffered, according to recent reports.

Though Carney adjusted to life with the device, there were some things, simple things, that he never really got used to.

"I was just learning to get used to learning pretty much to do everything over again," says the freshman defenseman, "Just not being able to turn my neck, like having to turn my whole body to look at somebody. Or to take a shower, I had to wash off in a sink and tub for three months, which was tough to get used to."

Now in a neck brace, he is able to work out again, though only on a stationary bike. It is a bright point, having been unable to do anything for so long.

His inability to be on the ice hasn't stopped Carney from keeping up with his Michigan State teammates. He attends practices and games regularly and hangs out with teammates outside of the rink.

Carney says that, despite not having played a game with the Spartans, his teammates have been fully supportive during the recovery process.

"Even the first day after it happened, everybody came to see me in the hospital. It was just a good feeling, knowing that they were there for me and pretty much doing anything they could to help, which was really nice."

Like others affected by life-threatening injuries, the future isn't clear. Carney won't play this year, and when exactly he skates again depends on how quickly his neck heals. It'll be months before he can even consider contact.

Carney ends the call on a bittersweet note.

"Yeah, it's a wasted year of experience," says the Battle Creek, Mich., native. "But just being able to play for another four years would be nice."

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