IRL: Sam Schmidt Regaining Some Motor and Sensory Function

Indianapolis, IN: After a successful transfer to the spinal cord injury Neurorehabilitative Unit at the Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Indy Racing League (IRL) personality Sam Schmidt has recovered enhanced...

Indianapolis, IN: After a successful transfer to the spinal cord injury Neurorehabilitative Unit at the Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Indy Racing League (IRL) personality Sam Schmidt has recovered enhanced ability to spontaneously breathe and has begun to gain motor and sensory function below his original level of injury.

Schmidt arrived in St. Louis, Missouri just five weeks ago after severely injuring his upper spine during an IRL open test at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida. His transition into the Neurorehabilitative Unit occurred just three weeks ago. According to John W. McDonald, M.D., Ph.D, Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Unit and Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurological Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, Schmidt has already begun to regain lost vital functions. He regained the ability to breathe on his own and has been off the ventilator and doing extremely well for several weeks. Devices needed to support Schmidt have now been removed, including tracheotomy and gastric tubes. All difficulties he has previously endured with regulating blood pressure and body temperature have been resolved.

The 34 year-old father of two has also begun to demonstrate improvements in his neurologic function since being able to participate in the advanced rehabilitative program designed for him by his Washington University spinal cord injury physicians.

In addition to traditional rehabilitation, Schmidt is participating heavily in a program designed to optimize neural activity in the injured spinal cord and to enhance the ability of the central nervous system to regenerate. This program includes rigorous daily training with functional electrical stimulation; electrically stimulated self-power bicycle, and individual muscle stimulators. He is also beginning training with partial weight supported walking using a parachute type harness and an electrical treadmill. He has currently been fitted for and using a bioengineering system that initiates his hands to open and close to enhance activation to the spinal cord.

Schmidt has already undergone two neurosurgical procedures to stabilize his neck vertebral fractures. The first was completed in Orlando, Florida and involved anterior spinal fusion between the C3 and C4 vertebrae with a bone aliograft to help fuse the two healing vertebrae. Once he was transferred to St. Louis, Dr. Carl Lauryssen, a neurosurgical member of the Washington University STATeam (spinal trauma assessment and treatment team), performed a posterior spinal fusion procedure to strengthen the C2 through C5 vertebrae. This procedure has allowed Schmidt to rapidly advance along his rehabilitative program.

For more information regarding the hospital's Spinal Cord Injury program, visit

www.neuro.wustl.edu/sci on the web.

For more information regarding Schmidt's condition, or to purchase Sam Schmidt-Racing to Recovery T-shirts, visit www.treadwayracing.com on the Internet.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Schmidt