Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Wilton Speight's Parents: Medical Treatment At Purdue After Fractured Vertebrae Was "Absolute Train Wreck"

Photo Credit: Michael Conroy/AP
Photo Credit: Michael Conroy/AP

In the Detroit News, the parents of Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight have a harrowing account of the treatment their son received at Purdue last month after a hit that left him with three fractured vertebrae in his back.


Speight was laid out during the first quarter of the Sept. 23 game against Purdue. His parents, Bobby and Martha Speight, describe inadequate medical services at the stadium and no system in place to efficiently transport him to further care. Coach Jim Harbaugh publicly voiced complaints about Purdue’s facilities the week after the game, noting the lack of air conditioning in the visiting locker rooms and the fact that injured players could not be X-rayed at the stadium.

From the News:

“Wilton gets hit and didn’t move for a little while, which is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Bobby Speight said. “The police took us down but were unable to open the door. Someone who appeared to be a member of the food staff realized what was going on and let us in. When that door opened, even in high school I had never been in a visiting locker room that bad. It was dark, dingy, dirty.”


Wilton Speight needed to be transported to a student health center to be X-rayed. (Purdue’s original statement claimed there is “basic X-ray” available within the “athletic footprint,” with more sophisticated facilities nearby, but both Harbaugh and Speight’s parents said that it was their understanding that there was no way for Speight to be X-rayed at all in the stadium.)

More from the News:

Michigan and Michigan State have full X-ray capabilities at their stadiums, and they also provide police escorts if a player needs to be transported to and from the hospital. It’s not clear why Speight wasn’t transported directly to a hospital by ambulance.

Instead, Wilton sat in the front seat of a van provided by Purdue and driven by a student. The Speights, two medical trainers, a doctor and Thai Trinh, an orthopedic sports medicine fellow at Michigan, piled into a van to be transported to the student health clinic, about two blocks from the stadium.

“We take off with no escort,” Bobby Speight said. “We can’t get through because there are barricades up and (the van driver is) directing people to move them.”

When they reached the student health center, a technician stopped Wilton Speight to ask for proof of insurance before he could proceed with any X-rays—even though Speight was still wearing his cleats and part of his uniform, and the NCAA requires all member schools to provide athletes insurance specifically for any sport-related injuries.

Then there was this:

The Michigan doctors requested several X-rays, and there was a short delay because of issues putting the X-ray requests in the computer system. The technician was able to get the pictures, but transmission to a satellite facility failed, making it impossible for the Michigan doctors to examine the X-rays on a high-resolution screen. They thought they could miss diagnosing even the smallest of fractures on a lower-resolution version.

Michigan’s team doctors decided Speight should be transported to a local hospital, but the Purdue officials didn’t know which hospital to send them to, Bobby Speight said.


All full-time EMS units were dispatched, elsewhere at the time, so a volunteer squad was the only option. They waited 20 minutes for the volunteer squad. Once in the ambulance, they asked how long it would take to arrive at the hospital and were told 30 to 45 minutes. From Bobby Speight:

“Our doctor asked him, ‘Couldn’t we please turn on the siren and make better time?’ And (the rescue squad member) said, ‘Don’t you get smart with me. You said this is a non-vital trip.’ Our doctor said, ‘I don’t care what I told you, this boy has tingling in his legs. Turn the siren on and go.’


Speight was treated at the hospital, finally given a board for his back, and eventually diagnosed with three fractured vertebrae in his back. He has not played since.

[Detroit News]

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