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Four years after surgery, should I return to sports?

Hi all, just looking for some sound advice. I had a minimally invasive microdiscectomy quite a while ago, at T7-8, C3-4 and C5-6. Had a lot of chronic pain which has recently been improving by leaps and bounds, but have only been able to work and lift weights like I used to for the last few years. I had given up on my passion, which was training brazilian jiu jitsu, only to keep coming back and wanting desperately to join in again. I have noticed after finally being off of pain pills, that I am able to lift weights, go to school full-time (physical therapist assistant), and work doing dangerous things with my back, like transferring patients who cannot help, without injuring my back or causing a lot of pain. After seeing a friend go to his academy to get his next belt and commenting on how much I miss it, he asked me why I couldn't also train, seeing as I am able to do everything else with relative ease.

My surgeon told me that I should not return to jiu jitsu, but my physical therapist looked at my record and said many people return after a surgery like that, and that it would be okay if it didn't cause me pain. I am not sure what to do, and I feel like if there is even the smallest chance that I can train again and stay healthy that I want to try, it means that much to me. When I am able to train, I stay in shape, eat healthy, don't drink or smoke, sleep well, and am highly motivated and confident in all areas of my life. When I don't train, I have other hobbies to keep me busy, but I don't care about them nearly as much, don't get the same exercise, and am not very motivated about showing up. In short, jiu jitsu makes me a very happy, fulfilled person.

I have gone back to class twice now, and am going back again tonight. The academy is very responsible and professional, no one I have rolled with goes very hard or tries to hurt each other. We have a few veterans who are also injured who go at their own pace and take it easy. So far I have gotten a little sore from training, but nothing bad enough to make me think it is hurting me, though I know there is always a chance something could happen, just as it could while I am transferring a patient. I read about Bruce Lee and others being told they could never return to sports, and proving them wrong as well as regaining their health and happiness. I want to know if you guys think I am being naïve or stupid for giving it a try, or if it might be worth it to just try anf find out whether or not it is bad for me. I have not injured my back since the surgery, only gotten sore from time to time, and I feel like I would know if it is bad for me long before I slip another disc. Just wondering if there are others who returned to a relatively intense sport after having a serious surgery. Seems like athletes do it all the time. I appreciate any of your thoughts, please be brutally honest. (:#


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,862
    edited 11/20/2013 - 1:53 PM
    This is not the first time I have heard that a doctor recommends to a patient NOT to return to a specific activity, while their physical therapist tell them to GO AHEAD and DO IT.

    1 - The doctor is the one with the medical degree and can fully understand what could happen
    2 - The physical therapist, by nature are folks in pretty good shape, so they can look at the patient through their own eyes and say, sure, why not

    Who do you trust? and Who do you want to bank your life on? While none of this may be life threatening, the potential negative impacts may be very large. I look at Peyton Manning when it comes to something like this. His doctors told him flat out, that he should NOT return to the pro ranks. All it might take is one solid hit and he could be paralyzed for life. Peyton had nothing to prove, he had accomplished just about everything, but it was his inner drive that made him decide.

    Another thing to consider. I am not sure by this post or some of your others if you are a married person with a family. To me, that makes all the difference. If it was just you, ok, so you go ahead and return to this sport because you love it and IF by chance something happens that lands you in a wheelchair the rest of your life, its only you to be consider.

    BUT IF you have a family, then the risks are much higher. One thing to potentially sentenced the rest of your life with a serious situation, BUT to sentence your loved ones, thats another story.

    In the end, its up to you. You have to make the decision. Weigh all the possibilities, look at the pros/cons and come up with a decision that you can live with no matter what the final results will be.

    As you can see, I am brutally honest. I was an athlete all my life, enjoyed playing sports to the fullest. I never knew how to play it down, when I played it was 100% out all the time. Lucky for me, I did not have to make that decision. My body made it for me. I realized I could NO longer do what I did before, and that being so, then why go for it...

    My opinion only
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Doctors told us that my grandma wasn't going to live beyond 66 due to cancer and a serious stroke in the same year. She died at 84 years old and recovered remarkably from both illnesses up until she passed (from a heart attack). There are many stories that go both ways.

    I think you should do what your body feels like doing...UNDERSTANDING there is a calculated risk and if you get re-injured you have no one to blame but yourself. If you are comfortable with that, then have fun! You only live one time.


    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
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