Pruitt: Vol DB Has “Narrowing of His Spine”

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    Photo by Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

    Senior defensive back Baylen Buchanan was largely inactive during spring practices earlier this year, and he’s been held out of activities this fall camp for the Vols as well. On Tuesday, head coach Jeremy Pruitt revealed why.

    Pruitt spoke with the media after practice on Tuesday, and the last question he was asked was about Buchanan. According to Pruitt, doctors discovered an abnormality with Buchanan this offseason, and he’s been held out ever since.

    “Baylen had a couple issues during the offseason. We discovered he has a kind of narrowing of the spine, so for his safety and precaution, we’re holding him out,” Pruitt said on Tuesday. “We’ve sent him to a lot of specialists across the country. We’re just waiting and gathering information.”

    Pruitt added that the senior defensive back “has a redshirt” to use if he isn’t cleared to play in 2019. He also stressed that Buchanan’s health is of utmost importance, and they’re taking all the precautions necessary.

    “One thing you gotta figure out is, is this something that he’s had the whole time he’s played, or is this something that kinda has just happened right now?” Pruitt added. “But to be precautionary, we’ve held him out, and we’re going to continue to do that because his safety is our first priority.”

    The 5-foot-11, 196-pound defensive back started all 12 games for the Vols last season and seemed in line to be a contributor at least at nickelback if not also as a backup at one of the outside corner positions in 2019.

    Now, however, Buchanan’s status is completely up in the air for this upcoming season and for the remainder of his career.

    According to Mayo Clinic, the narrowing of the spine is known as “spinal stenosis.” It’s most commonly caused by “wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis,” but other factors can lead to the narrowing of the spine such as overgrowth of bone, herniated disks, and thickened ligaments. It’s common for someone with spinal stenosis not to exhibit symptoms, and it may not be apparent that someone has the problem until an MRI or CT scan reveals it. Spinal stenosis often gradually worsens over time.

    The Mayo Clinic adds that most people with spinal stenosis are “over the age of 50” but notes that it can be found in “younger people” and is often the result of either “trauma, congenital spinal deformity such as scoliosis, [or] a genetic disease affecting bone and muscle development throughout the body.”

    Last season, Buchanan totaled 49 tackles, three tackles for loss, four passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in 12 starts. Buchanan played extensively as a freshman in 2016, but he only appeared in six games as a sophomore in 2017.

    In 31 career games, Buchanan has totaled 73 tackles, three tackles for loss, five passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He’s made 13 starts in his 31 appearances.