99 elite athletes had been included in this retrospective study. All had been treated for a cervical herniated disk. A little more than half of them (n=53) had had surgery, all others had been treated conservatively. For each player a “performance-score” was evaluated at baseline and after treatment from available statistical data. Additional data were collected on how many of the football players could resume their career and for how long and at how many games they could participate after their treatment.
Whereas there was no difference among the groups for the “performance-score”, in all other criteria the surgical treatment proved superior to conservative therapy. Athletes that had undergone surgery had a higher chance to resume their career, to take part in more games and to stay professional player for a longer period of time compared to their colleagues under conservative treatment (refer to figure).
Source: Hsu, WK; Spine 2010 Aug 13 epub (ahead of print)