Because of jumping and twisting and the high-impact hits that can hyperextend the spine, herniated disks in the lower back are common for football players. A herniated disk is when the nucleus of a disk that’s positioned in between your vertebrae pushes against and at time squeezes all the way through the disk’s outer ring, causing pain and numbness. Football players can return to play once they’ve repaired their herniated disk, although how they treat their injury can influence their chances of returning.
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Returning to the Field
Repairing a herniated lumbar disk involves either nonoperative treatment or surgery. Nonoperative treatment includes a period of rest, followed by taking anti-inflammatory medications and participating in physical therapy. A steroid injection can help reduce inflammation and allow a football player return to competition. Surgical treatment involves removing the herniated area of the disk, followed by physical rehab. According to Dr. Wellington K. Hsu’s 2010 study, 72 percent of National League Football players were able to play football again after their herniated lumbar disk was repaired with surgery. Forty-six percent of professional players who treated their herniated lumbar disk with nonoperative treatments were able to return to play.