| ||INDIANAPOLIS -- Indy Racing League driver Sam Schmidt is a
quadriplegic who will not drive or walk again, his team says.|
"It's a lot worse than we first thought," said a spokesperson for Treadway Racing. "Sam has the same injury as Christopher Reeve. His spinal cord got pinched between the third and fourth vertebrae."
Schmidt, 35, who got his only career victory last year in his hometown of Las Vegas, was injured Jan. 6 when his Treadway Racing G Force-Aurora spun and hit the retaining wall at Walt Disney World Speedway in Buena Vista, Fla.
He was preparing for the season-opening Indy 200 on Jan. 29.
"Emerson Fittipaldi broke the same thing, and they repaired it," the spokesperson said, recalling an accident at Michigan Speedway in 1996. "And Sam would have recovered just fine if his spinal cord hadn't been pinched."
The impact left Schmidt unconscious and not breathing. IRL safety crews revived him before transporting him to Orlando's Regional Medical Center, where he underwent a three-hour spinal surgery. Doctors placed pins in his upper spine to fuse the damaged vertebra and relieve pressure, said medical center spokesman Joe Brown.
Treadway Racing said Schmidt is now on a ventilator. "But doctors say he's almost breathing on his own, and that's almost a miracle."
|Sam Schmidt won his first an only IRL race in his hometown of Las Vegas last season.|
Schmidt was was due to arrive at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis on Tuesday night. He had been staying in Orlando's Regional Medical Center.
On Friday, Treadway Racing communications manager Ruth Culbertson told ESPN RPM Radio that Schmidt is making some minor progress. Schmidt has been able to shrug his shoulders, but is paralyzed from the neck down.
"We are taking in small miracles one day at a time," Culbertson said. "His spirits are up. He's feisty, trying to calm the nurses and drive his parents crazy. And that's what we were hoping for."
The driver was severely injured in the mall.com 500 last October, fracturing both feet in a collision with Scott Sharp at Texas Motor Speedway. Part of Schmidt's right big toe was amputated.
Schmidt moved to St. Louis hospital