South Korea's Lee Seung-mo breaks neck during promotion playoff game
South Korean rising star Lee Seung-mo is expected to make a full recovery despite breaking his neck during a promotion playoff on Tuesday.
The 20 year-old Gwangju FC midfielder, who can play in a variety of positions, went up for a high ball after just seven minutes of the game at Daejeon Citizen and fell awkwardly, breaking three bones in his neck.
Lee, a member of South Korea's under-23 team that won gold at the Asian Games in September, was immediately unconscious and surrounded by concerned players and officials. An ambulance came onto the pitch at Daejeon World Cup Stadium and took him to hospital.
Incredibly, he was smiling as his teammates visited on Wednesday.
"Thank you for all those who have worried about me," Lee said in a statement issued through the club. "As it is not a serious injury, people don't need to worry.
"I will do my best to recover quickly and show what I can do once again on the pitch."
Gwangju reiterated their midfielder's words.
"Seungmo is fine," the club said on social media on Wednesday. "He will be discharged from hospital after two or three weeks. His recovery period will be two to three months."
The club publicly thanked the quick actions of the referee and Daejeon Citizen.
"He only remembers going for the header and then lost his memory until he got at the emergency room," a Gwangju spokesperson said. "He regained consciousness after arrival at the emergency room in Yuseong-Sun Hospital.
"He complained of pain in his back. There was no abnormality in the CT scan, only three fractures of the cervical vertebrae."
Lee, who joined Gwangju from three-time Asian champions Pohang Steelers in 2017, could even be ready for the start of the 2019 league season, likely to be in March.
Gwangju will stay in the second tier after losing 1-0 to Daejeon and being eliminated from the promotion playoffs. Daejeon progress to take on Busan I'Park.