By Zack Hall

The Bulletin

Joel Skotte is expecting to undergo surgery to repair neck injuries that have cast his football future in doubt.

Skotte, an Oregon State middle linebacker from Bend who just completed his sophomore season, said Wednesday by phone from Corvallis that he has a ruptured disk, a protruding disk and some spinal cord damage that he suffered during the 2013 season.

The severity of the injuries were not discovered until winter break when, after suffering increasing pain, Skotte had an MRI performed in Bend.

Skotte said his prognosis is not yet known, and he expects to travel to Southern California in the coming weeks to have a specialist there examine the injury. After that he hopes to be able to plot a course to recovery.

“Right now we’re just trying to get the right surgery and try to make it so I can play again,” said Skotte, a star on Mountain View High School’s 2011 Class 5A state championship team. “We’re just kind of on standstill right now until I get it all figured out and try to get surgery.”

Skotte said he first injured his neck during the week of practice before OSU’s 31-14 loss to USC on Nov. 1, when he took a hit in practice “that jacked my neck up pretty good.”

His initial thought was that perhaps the injury was something minor, such as a neck spasm.

On the opening kickoff against USC at Oregon State’s Reser Stadium, Skotte was knocked unconscious while blocking for a kick return. He suffered a concussion and did not return to action until the Beavers’ loss to Washington on Nov. 23.

The hit also worsened his neck injury, Skotte said.

Despite that, he finished out the season by logging six tackles against the Huskies and another tackle the following week against Oregon. He suited up for the Beavers’ game against Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve but did not play.

“The trainers here (at Oregon State) thought it was muscle spasms in my neck so we didn’t do anything all season about it,” Skotte said.

Skotte said he met with OSU coach Mike Riley last week to discuss the injury. He still has a redshirt season available to him if he is not healthy enough to play in 2014.

The neck injuries are the most serious in a series of blows for Skotte in a season started with much promise.

He was named the starting middle linebacker early in preseason camp, and he started the Beavers’ first four games. But he was benched against San Diego State and supplanted as starter.

He also suffered through a painful case of “turf toe” (a sprain of the connective tissue between the foot and the big toe).

“It’s been a rough year, for sure,” Skotte said. “But things can only go up from here.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, .