April 19, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Bobcats veteran forward Eduardo Najera doesn't look like a player who just had major surgery to on his skull two weeks ago.
The indentation in his forehead is no longer visible.
And there's no visible scar from the surgery performed by Dr. Daniel Spagnoli from Charlotte, who cut Najera from ear-to-ear across the top of his head in order to peel back the skin on his face and repair the shattered bones beneath it.
Najera walked away with 12 screws and a mesh screen inserted in his forehead after taking an elbow to the head from Milwaukee's Jon Brockman during a game on April 6.
"The doctor did an amazing job -- didn't even touch my hair," Najera said with a laugh. "My first question was, `Are you going to shave my head?' He's like `Don't worry about it, the hair will stay.' I couldn't believe the new technology.
"They opened my whole head, pulled my face out and fixed it. Obviously there were a lot of loose pieces they had to put back together like a puzzle, but they did an amazing job."
Then Najera smiled and quipped, "I feel like he did a facelift -- not even any wrinkles."
Najera, 35, can joke about it now.
He even said he plans on playing a 12th year in the NBA next season.
But the injury was certainly no laughing matter when Brockman's elbow came crashing into Najera's forehead while Najera was trying to attempt a shot. As Najera went up, Brockman's elbow came down. The two collided and Najera immediately went to the ground holding his head.
"Initially I didn't think he was hurt as bad as he was," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. "He came off the court and I think there was a little blood, but I said, `He'll be ok.' And then he was stumbling around and I thought oh my God, something is really wrong. He's really bad off."
Bobcats trainer Steve Stricker said he knew right away there was a problem.
He quickly noticed the indentation in Najera's head and rushed him to an area hospital.
"I wanted to take a shower and he said, `No, you're going straight to the hospital,"' Najera said. "They wouldn't let me see it... They didn't really tell me until I got back to Charlotte that the fracture was quite so big. It shattered my forehead."
Najera's teammates said his head looked like a car that had been involved in a fender bender - it caved in.
Guard Matt Carroll said he'd never seen anything like it.
"I looked at it and you could tell his head was going in," Carroll said. "There was this big indent in his forehead. I was like, that just didn't look right. You knew something wasn't right."
Najera would fly home with the team later that night, but underwent major surgery that lasted several hours the following day.
He said doctors told him he was fortunate he didn't suffer any brain damage.
There are two layers bone guarding the brain.
The exterior one in Najera's head shattered, while the softer inside one somehow remained intact preventing serious brain damage.
Najera said he feels "lucky" the injury wasn't more serious.
"Thank God there was no (brain) injury," Najera said. "It was close to the brain, but thanks to my big forehead it didn't get to it."
Najera can begin exercising in about four weeks, but has to avoid any contact with his head for a few months. He plans to play next season, although it's unclear where. His contract with the Bobcats is up after the season and he'll be a free agent.
"I'm a little disappointed he didn't break his elbow," Najera joked of the collision with Brockman.
Najera said the days following the surgery were as painful as the injury itself.
Sneezing, or any type of jarring movement, sent bolts of pain through his head. But he's feeling almost back to normal.
"I am lucky," Najera said. "It could have been a lot worse. The reality is it was a freaky injury. I am thankful that nothing happened to my brain."