Sydney: Australian National Rugby League player Alex McKinnon has been placed in an induced coma after suffering a broken neck and a "devastating spinal injury".
The 22-year-old Newcastle Knights forward underwent emergency surgery on Tuesday to stabilise his neck following a lifting tackle by three Melbourne Storm players in a 28-20 defeat by the Storm the previous day.
"Alex had additional scans on Tuesday afternoon, which confirmed a devastating spinal injury," the club said in a statement, adding that recovery could take up to two years.
"He has movement in his right arm and the uncertainty remains in regeneration, with a variable prognosis," it said.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley told News Limited newspapers on Wednesday that McKinnon was in a coma.
"He`s been in an induced coma just to help with the recovery from the surgery and to make sure there is no movement there," he said.
"The scans showed the spinal cord was not cut but they are still determining what damage might have been done there. It`s just a real anxious time at the moment."
McKinnon was taken by stretcher from the field just before half-time when a gang tackle involving Jordan McLean and brothers Jesse and Kenny Bromwich resulted in his head being driven into the ground.
Referee Gerard Sutton placed the tackle on report, which means players could be subject to disciplinary action.
The NRL said Tuesday it would defer a hearing into the incident out of respect to McKinnon and his family.
NRL Head of Football Todd Greenberg said the league`s match review committee had decided to refer a dangerous throw charge against Melbourne Storm player Jordan McLean to the NRL judiciary because of the serious injury arising from the tackle.
Greenberg said no date has been set for the hearing.