Senior running back Stafon Johnson was in critical but stable condition Monday evening following a severe throat injury he suffered during a weightlifting accident earlier in the day.
Johnson was bench pressing when the bar slipped from his hands and fell directly on his throat. The running back was rushed to California Hospital Medical Center where he was treated for “crushing injuries to his neck as well as severe lanrygeal injuries,” according to a statement released by the hospital.
Carroll said Johnson could not speak after the injury.
According the press release, Dr. Gudata Hinika said Johnson had a threatened airway, but after more than seven hours of surgery, his prognosis was “good.”
Hinika said that he expects Johnson to make a full recovery, but “it is unlikely Mr. Johnson will complete the season,” the press release said.
Although Carroll did not know the amount of weight on the bar or which player or coach was spotting the running back, he did say the accident occurred near the end of Johnson’s reps. Various media outlets reported that Johnson was lifting 275 pounds.
“It was scary,” Carroll said. “That happens sometimes when you’re doing bench press … but this one just hit him wrong.”
Carroll said the injury is not life threatening, but Johnson is expected to miss an extended period of time while he recovers.
“When you’re as connected as we are, we feel every bit of this,” Carroll said.
The accident took place during an organized team workout, and the team’s strength coach was performing the drill with Johnson. Many players were also around when the incident happened and tried to help their injured teammate.
Carroll addressed his entire team following the incident in the Trojans’ locker room. Players, however, were not made available to comment after practice.
“We’re disappointed obviously that he got banged up and he’s hurt,” Carroll said. “We need to find out more when we get a chance.”
In a news release posted on USC’s website earlier in the day, USC’s strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle said the accident was a rare case.
“I’ve seen players have the bar slip and fall on their chest, but never in my 25 years of coaching have I heard of someone dropping a bar on their throat,” Carlisle said.
Johnson — who leads USC with five touchdowns and is the second leading rusher on the team with 157 rush yards on 32 carries — has been an integral part of the Trojans’ offense for three years. The team will have to find players to step up in his absence.
“Stafon has been a centerpiece to what we’ve been doing, and he won’t be available,” Carroll said. “It will just call on everybody to share the duties a little bit differently. More than that, we’re just disappointed not to have him.”
Carroll said redshirt junior C.J. Gable will likely get more carries. Gable has gained 44 rushing yards on 10 carries in three games this season, and has scored one touchdown.
Johnson is one of a group of players the Trojans will be without in the upcoming weeks.
Sophomore linebacker Jordan Campbell suffered an ankle injury during Saturday’s victory over Washington State, and Carroll said he expects him to miss some time.
Sophomore Shane Horton and senior Luthur Brown are the two most likely candidates to see playing time at Campbell’s position. Carroll also did not rule out junior linebacker Malcolm Smith returning to action this weekend.
USC also announced Sunday evening that junior cornerback Marshall Jones will be out for the remainder of the season with a cracked vertebra in his neck and junior defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo will miss the rest of the year with a broken fibula.