07/23/2004 12:00AM

Birzer, jockey, paralyzed


Gary Birzer, a 27-year-old jockey based at Mountaineer Park, has been paralyzed from the waist down after severing his spinal cord in an accident on Tuesday night at the West Virginia track, his agent said on Friday.

Birzer, second in the standings at the current meeting, was thrown from Lil Bit of Rouge in the seventh race when that horse broke her leg just past the half-mile pole. Birzer landed on his neck, breaking the C-7 bone in the vertebral column and fracturing his C-6 bone.

"He can move his arms, but he does not feel anything below the waist," said his agent, Jimmy Isbell, who spoke as the representative of the Birzer family. "He's talking, he can talk to you. He said the horse was going fine. It's just one of those terrible things that can happen in racing."

Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital operated on Birzer on Thursday night to stabilize the injuries, Isbell said. He will be moved to a rehabilitation facility for eight weeks in five days, according to Isbell.

Birzer arrived at Mountaineer Park four years ago, and led the spring standings at the meet. He has a wife, Amy, and a 2-year-old daughter, Robyn.