5 key notes on how cervical spine surgery affects NFL players' careers

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

A study recently published in Spine examined cervical spine surgeries for NFL players to see whether the level of surgery had an impact on performance-based outcomes.

The study authors examined 40 NFL athletes with cervical disc herniation at a definite level. They measured player outcomes by comparing return to play rates and calculating the "Performance Score" for the players. The researchers found:


1. Among the players who sustained upper-level injuries to C2 to C4, 66.6 percent successfully returned to play. Those athletes were able to play another 44.6 games on average over the following 2.6 years.


2. The athletes who underwent lower-level surgery at C4 to T1 also reported a high return to play rate; 72 percent were able to play in another 44.1 games on average over 3.1 years.


3. There wasn't a significant difference between the upper and lower cervical spine surgeries in return to play, but the postsurgical performance scores were different. The upper level group reported a 1.47 postsurgical performance score, compared to 0.69 for the lower level group.


4. The adjacent segment disease requiring reoperation occurred for 10 percent of the patients who underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Among the patients who underwent a foraminotomy, half eventually required a subsequent fusion.


5. The study authors concluded, "although CDH injuries present career threatening implications, an upper-level CDH does not preclude a player from successfully returning to play at a competitive level."


More articles on spine surgery:
5 things to know about 30-day readmissions for cervical spinal fusion
10 statistics on orthopedic spine surgeon compensation
Artificial cervical disc replacement for two-level disease

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