One of the most famous Russian Olympians, Evgeni Plushenko, has started the Winter Olympics with a bang. The 31-year-old figure skater is more than double the age of the Russian team’s other star figure skater, Yulia Lipnitskaya. And as we all know, aging and increasing pain go hand in hand. As a professional athlete, surgery is often added to this mix.

For two years in a row, Plushenko was found to be the most popular athlete in Russia, even ahead of track star Yelena Gadzhievna Isinbayeva and National Hockey League player Alexander Ovechkin. Plushenko is a four-time Winter Olympic medalist, winning silver in 2002 and 2010, and gold in 2006 and 2014 (team figure skating). The Sochi crowd roars when Plushenko skates.

Staying at the top for almost two decades has its price, though. Plushenko has had numerous surgeries including hernia surgery, knee operations, and back surgery including an artificial disc replacement. In January 2013, Plushenko underwent a successful artificial disc replacement surgery in Tel Aviv, Israel.

What is artificial disc surgery?

Artificial disc surgery is done by spine specialists with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved device. It involves replacing a diseased or damaged disc with an artificial disc, and usually takes place in the lower back also known as the lumbar spine. Artificial disc is a newer procedure that replaces the need for spinal fusion, which can be more invasive. It has been adopted by leading spine surgeons, including Microsurgical Spine Center (MSC).

This procedure is minimally invasive, and the artificial replica disc helps to alleviate the patient’s pain, and remove the risk of other spinal issues down the road. The goal of the surgery is to lessen pain and improve mobility.

Some benefits of artificial disc surgery include patients returning to normal activities in a few weeks, it is less invasive than many other surgeries, there is no brace needed, and disc replacement surgery prevents degeneration of adjacent discs. Artificial discs can enable patients who have degenerative spine conditions to get back on their feet faster.

Even though artificial disc surgery allows patients to return to activities quicker, activities is a relative term. For the average person, “activities” means lower-impact undertakings. Plushenko is pushing himself harder than someone who isn’t a professional athlete, upping his risk for re-injury.

UPDATE: Plushenko injured himself in training on February 13, and dropped out of the remainder the Olympics. He already won a gold medal in Sochi as part of the Russian team skating event, but this injury has likely ended his career. The injury was not disclosed but he was seen clutching his back and in an interview said he was unable to feel his legs from the back injury.

If you want to learn more about artificial disc surgery or if you have back pain, contact us. Or call our Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964.