Portland Trail Blazer rookie Ramon Ramos suffered brain damage in an auto accident early Saturday morning, doctors said.
The 22-year-old forward, who had not played in the NBA, was listed in critical condition after three hours of surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University, according to Dr. Kim Burchiel, the hospital's chairman of neurosurgery.
"There is evidence of hemorrhage and damage to areas of the brain related to movement," Burchiel said. "It is not clear that he's going to survive this injury."
Burchiel said doctors would need at least another day to determine which way Ramos' condition might go.
"In cases like this, things do tend to get worse over two or three days" after injury, Burchiel said.
Burchiel said it is common for the brain to swell 48 to 72 hours after such an injury, but that Ramos was receiving anti-swelling medication.
"He is still deeply comatose and responding only to very strong stimuli" such as prodding that a healthy person would consider painful, the doctor said.
"It's a virtual certainty that he will have some neurological impairment," Burchiel said.
Dr. Richard Mullins, chief of trauma, said Ramos was on a ventilator to assist his breathing and was being monitored constantly. He said Ramos was receiving medication and there was some evidence of improvement in Ramos' lungs.
Ramos' family members were expected to arrive in Portland from their home in Puerto Rico early today, Burchiel said.
Blazer spokesman John Lashway said team representatives would be with the family throughout their stay in Portland.
Trail Blazer President Harry Glickman and Coach Rick Adelman were at the hospital during the surgery.
"I'm stunned," Glickman said. "Our prayers are with him."
Adelman said: "I'm just shocked. I don't have any words to describe it. It just blows you away."
Two weeks ago, former Trail Blazer Fernando Martin was killed in an auto accident in Spain.
"I hope the message gets through to everyone who is young and thinks the world can't touch them," Adelman said.
Doctors emphasized that alcohol was not a factor in Ramos' accident, which occurred about 3:15 a.m. (PST), when Ramos lost control of his car on Interstate 5 about 15 miles south of Portland.
The car crossed the center median and flipped. Ramos, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the vehicle, according to the Oregon State Police report. Ramos was alone and no other cars were involved in the accident.
"He lost control at an extremely high speed," Senior Trooper Gordon Landon said. "When he hit the grass, the car turned sideways and he went about 600 feet that way. At that point, he went airborne about 40 feet.
"When the car hit the ground, it dug in and rolled over eight times," Landon said. "The rolls went about 200 feet more and then he was ejected. There's no way to tell exactly how fast he was going, but there were a lot of skid marks."
Emergency helicopters were unable to take off because of extremely heavy fog, but Mullins said the delay in transporting Ramos to the hospital wasn't a factor.
The Trail Blazers signed Ramos, 6-feet-8 and 255 pounds, as a free agent in July after he was passed over in the NBA draft in June.
Although his preseason performance was enough to earn him a place on the team's regular roster, Ramos was placed on the injured reserve list with tendinitis in his right knee at the start of the regular season.
He was activated only 10 days ago, when veteran Robert Reid was placed on waivers.
Ramos helped Seton Hall to a second-place finish in the NCAA tournament last season, averaging 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds and shooting 53.1% from the field in 37 games. He was voted All-Big East Conference.
Ramos played for his native Puerto Rico in the 1988 Olympics.