After back surgery most NFL players return

Jan. 21, 2011 at 4:27 PM
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CHICAGO, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Since NFL players recover from back surgery to play again, U.S. researchers say there is no excuse for others returning from back surgery to return to the gym.

Lead study author Dr. Joseph Weistroffer and Dr. Wellington Hsu of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital examined two decades of public records on 52 NFL offensive and defensive linemen who had herniated disc surgery during their careers.

Eighty percent of NFL lineman were able to play an average of 33 games after the surgery, and more than half were starters.

Spinal discs can wear as people age, and the sidewall may tear but usually heals on its own. However, disc material will squirt out through the tear and pin the nerve root against the bone, causing back and leg pain, but often the body can heal itself within six to 12 weeks.

If healing doesn't occur, surgery can relieve the pressure, but post-surgery, patients need to take it easy for up to three months and not lift more than 10 pounds.

"If a football player can get back to playing football again, you, too, can resume normal life," Weistroffer says.

The study is scheduled to be published in the March issue of the Journal of American Sports Medicine.

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