It is fall here in the U.S. and, for many Americans, that time of year brings cooler weather and football. Apologies to our non-U.S. readers, I realize that you have ownership on “real” football, and our version is secular at best. But, hey, football is ours and we sure do like it.
It is during this time I like to reflect and “brag” that I have something in common with arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game – certainly in the modern era. You see, Peyton Manning and I share a common bond. No, my father wasn’t an NFL quarterback, I wasn’t an All-American quarterback at Tennessee, and my little brother hasn’t won two Super Bowls. Peyton and I both had identical cervical neck fusion surgery – and since then have both lived productive lives.
A quick history lesson. Manning opted for the fusion surgery in September 2011 after battling past problems with a bulging disc in his neck. There was no direct incident attributed to the injury, but no doubt the slings and arrows of his chosen profession were spotlighted. Manning sat out the whole 2011 season, and was subsequently released by his NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts in early 2012. Concern surfaced about Peyton’s ability to regenerate the nerve damage that had weakened his right (throwing) arm. But, given time, the nerve slowly regenerated. Imagine it like when your foot “falls asleep.” The nerve is pinched slightly and takes a few painful minutes to get back to normal. Manning’s neck had been like that for five years or more.
The Denver Broncos decided to take a chance on Manning and he was officially declared ready for the 2012 season. NFL fans nervously waited for him to take his first hit. Would he get up? Is his arm back to full strength? After an injury-free 2012 (including a trip to the playoffs), Manning is back better than ever in 2013. He threw for 400+ yards and 7 touchdowns in the Broncos’ opening game and is leading the NFL in QB rank. Many argue that he is better than ever, and the neck is in fact stronger than before surgery.
I had my surgery in March 2007, and it was the final stop for me following a year of cortisone injections, epidurals, physical therapy, pain meds, chiropractic treatment, and general frustration. Like Peyton, there was no direct cause of the bulging disk. Perhaps it was when I raked that last leaf in the yard, walked that extra block with the dog, moved the TV to another room? It doesn't matter. I was back to work in a month, and my right arm regained its strength, and although I don’t have to dodge NFL defense men, I hit the golf ball longer off the tee now than I ever did pre-surgery. I might have a tingling in my middle finger every now and then, but nothing serious.
What always amazes me is how far medicine, technology and surgery has come today. I often read or edit a story for Medical Device Daily featuring a new technology or an emerging company that is seeking funding for its new invention, and I think of how lucky we are to live in this day and age when medical technology is constantly improving. The research and development teams at device companies and universities is exciting. My surgeon told me that if it were 10 years earlier, I would have had “a chunk of metal” in my neck instead of the two miniature titanium plates. And my recovery would have been much more difficult.
So, for now, I am just glad that on Sunday afternoons my brother in surgery Peyton and I are in our rightful places – he on the playing field and I at home watching him from my couch.