KEVIN ANDERSEN WILL never forget the sound when he broke his neck. One second left in the third quarter of a 1989 high school playoff game between Mountain Crest and Pine View, an in-bounds pass from underneath the basket. Andersen went up to contest the pass and someone bumped him while he was in the air. He fell to the court, bouncing off his back with his chin to his chest. Almost simultaneously, a player from the opposing team came down, snapping Andersen's neck forward.

And then he heard the sound.There are certain sounds that bring only bad news: breaking glass, a phone call from the school principal, a highway patrol officer saying "May I see your driver's license?"

This was one of those bad-type sounds. It was up to no good. As the opposing player landed on him, Andersen felt a sharp pain and heard a pop. "I knew something was up," he says.

An hour later he was lying strapped to a hospital bed with a fractured vertebrae, listening as a doctor warned nurses, "Don't bump the bed."

That didn't sound too good, either.

If anything, Andersen - now a student trainer at Utah State - is somewhat of an expert on sports medicine. He's broken this, sprained that. As a junior quarterback, he led Mountain Crest to the state 3A football championship. The Mustangs were runners-up in the state basketball tournament the same year. But his senior season was largely an exercise in frustration. He separated his shoulder in football, missing a month of play. Near the end of the basketball season, he severely sprained an ankle, hampering his play somewhat in the playoffs. Soon to follow was the injury to his neck.

Prior to the injury, Andersen entertained ideas of playing small college football or basketball. But the offers disappeared after he was hurt, so he began solidifying plans to become a trainer.

"I guess if I'd been paralyzed I would think differently," he says. "But I guess you could say it turned into a good situation. It could have been a whole different story."

Trainers such as BYU's George Curtis and USU's Dale Mildenberger marvel at the series of coincidences that saved Andersen's life. He could have been killed or left a paraplegic, had he moved a half-inch in the wrong direction after the accident. When the Pine View player landed on him, Andersen grabbed his head with his fists, bracing his neck as he rolled to his side - though he says he doesn't know why. "It just happened that way. I didn't plan it," he says.

With the state tournament going on, there was considerable pressure to get Andersen moved off the court. He lay on the floor for 30 minutes. Some officials, security personnel and others in attendance advocated Andersen be moved. Mike Folsom, then a BYU student trainer, was scheduled to be at a trainers' meeting that day but was instructed by Curtis to attend the playoff game. When the accident happened, Folsom told officials he suspected a spine injury and wouldn't allow Andersen to be moved.

"He called me on the phone and described what had happened and said he suspected a cervical injury," says Curtis. "I told him not to move (Andersen) until the paramedics arrived."

After surgery and recovery, Andersen eventually served an LDS mission in Kentucky - ironically, the same place as the Pine View player who fell on his neck. They ended up playing pickup basketball together and even posing for pictures, re-enacting the accident.

Almost six years removed, Andersen considers the incident somewhat surreal. Something strange happened that day to save his life. Why did they hold the tournament that year at the Marriott Center - where there was a trainer on duty - rather than Weber State, the usual site for the 3A tournament? Why did Folsom not give in to pressure and allow him to be moved? Why did Curtis send Folsom to the basketball game instead of making him attend the trainers' meeting? When he turned, why did Andersen brace his head with his fists? Different circumstances to any of the above questions could have been fatal.

Andersen can only wonder.

Whatever the case, it took a life-threatening incident to change the way things are. Now a trainer is present at every high school game in Cache and Utah counties. Says Andersen, "A lot of things happened just because of that."

And he can proceed with his career plans as an athletic trainer, knowing that he has a lot of practical experience - from both ends of the accident.