Better under the knife: even elite athletes benefit from disc surgery

August 2010: A recent study was able to show that football players from the US national team who suffer from a herniated disc in the cervical spine clearly benefit from surgical treatment.

99 elite athletes were included in the retrospective study. All had been treated for a herniated cervical disc. Just over half of them (n=53) underwent surgery, the others only received conservative therapy. A "performance score" was determined for each player before and after treatment from available statistical data. It also recorded how many of the players were able to resume their careers, how many games they still played in after treatment, and how long the players remained in professional sports.

While there were no differences in the performance score, the surgical treatment was found to be superior to the other criteria. Athletes who underwent surgery were far more likely to be able to continue their athletic careers, play more games, and remain professional longer than their conservatively treated counterparts (see figure).

Intervertebral disc surgery has helped more athletes return to pro careers, participate in more games, and stay active longer overall.
Source: Hsu, WK; Spine 2010 Aug 13 (epub ahead of print)