NFL Injuries Put Spotlight on Spinal Health

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Expert spine surgeon Dr. Todd Gravori discusses spinal health in the wake of recent news stories about spinal injuries in the NFL

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Herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spinal trauma can often be treated safely and effectively using the latest technology that spinal surgeons have at their disposal.

According to a recent article from the New York Times, NFL player David Wilson has retired after aggravating a neck injury he sustained in January. He initially had a herniated disc, and was then discovered to have spinal stenosis as well, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that affects many adults and can lead to symptoms such as back or neck pain. Wilson had been hopeful that he could play again after surgery to repair the disc, but recently his doctors said otherwise. Leading spine surgeon Dr. Todd Gravori of ProMed SPINE comments on his condition and the importance of being aware of the risks associated with spinal injuries.

“Spinal stenosis can be present from birth, or it can develop from a number of conditions including trauma to the spine and herniated discs,” explained Dr. Gravori. “When it occurs in the neck, as with David Wilson, it can lead to neurological problems as well as pain and numbness in the extremities.”

Neurological problems associated with spinal stenosis include loss of sensation and bowel function, and even paralysis if aggravated or left untreated. Spinal stenosis does not always have to mean the end of an NFL career; there are examples of players who have been able to continue despite a spinal stenosis diagnosis. However, if a person has neurological problems associated with the stenosis, it is generally in their best interest not to continue a career in which neck injury is a common danger.

“If an athlete experiences cervical cord neurapraxia, as David Wilson is believed to have, then their chances of experiencing it again jump to fifty percent,” said Dr. Gravori. “In that case, it’s prudent for the athlete to stop participating in contact sports that can lead to a reoccurrence of the problem.”

Neurapraxia is a temporary loss of motor and sensory function, which is common in high-contact sports such as football and wrestling. While the NFL has taken steps to reduce the risk of spine injury, such as outlawing certain tackling moves, there is always an inherent risk involved when two or more players collide. Luckily, these injuries are often treatable and athletes can recover fully. Many players can continue their careers despite spinal injuries; however, for some, the risk may be too high. 

“There are highly advanced methods to treat all forms of spinal injury,” said Dr. Gravori. “Herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spinal trauma can often be treated safely and effectively using the latest technology that spinal surgeons have at their disposal, such as minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. However, if there is a risk of aggravating or repeating an injury, it may be safest for the athlete to retire from the sport.”

Based in Los Angeles, Todd Gravori, MD, FACS, QME is a board-certified spinal and neurosurgeon specializing in the treatment of back, neck, and spinal conditions via minimally invasive procedures. From each of his five boutique locations, Dr. Gravori offers comprehensive treatment including diagnosis, education, treatment, surgery, and aftercare. Dr. Gravori offers treatment for herniated discs, spinal instability, spinal deformity, spine tumors, brain tumors, meningioma, hematomas, cavernous malformations, and carpel tunnel. Unlike large hospitals, Dr. Gravori’s unique outpatient structure offers personalized care in a safe and controlled environment. 

To learn more about Dr. Gravori and his high-end outpatient facilities, visit his website at

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