One important factor may be that, although severe, Everett's injury was incomplete. Cappuccino recognized that Everett still had some sensation remaining in his lower extremities after sustaining the injury. In trauma cases such as these, Gibbons says, patients actually have a 50 to 75 percent chance of recovering.
He adds that initial diagnoses are not reliable predictors of how a patient will do in the long run. The real test is whether the patient shows improvement in the day or two following the injury, as Everett did.
Still, other physicians support Cappuccino's assertion that hypothermia therapy was crucial to Everett's recovery.
"We can't draw any firm conclusions based on a single case, but his recovery can, at least in part, be attributed to the use of hypothermic therapy," says Hasan Alam, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, who has successfully used the therapy on critically wounded Yorkshire pigs.
More in-depth study, like Alam's and research in humans, may confirm whether the therapy is safe and beneficial. Despite the risks, inducing hypothermia may play a role in preventing neurological injury during periods of severe trauma.
"Even though Everett's case has nothing to do with corroborating the use of hypothermia," says Edward Benzel, director of the Center for Spine Health at the Cleveland Clinic, who agrees with Gibbons' assessment, it doesn't mean there is no reason to study the treatment further.
While the question of whether or not hypothermia treatment was the key to Everett's recovery, today he is walking again. He even made an appearance on national television at this summer's ESPY Awards—presented by ESPN—where he accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance, named after former North Carolina State University basketball coach Jim Valvano.