Are you curious about Tony Romo’s recent back surgery? What was it? Why did he have it?

You may be a Seahawks fan, but if you watch football, you are probably aware that Tony Romo was injured. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback is on the injured reserve due to a herniated disc. He had the disc repaired in surgery this past week.

NFL teams are required to report player injuries but are often quiet about the extent of the injury (Gronkowski saga, anyone?). In Romo’s case, it is definitely reported as a herniated disc, which is when a disc in the spine ruptures or bulges. The spine is made up of vertebrae (bones) and in between them are discs filled with a jelly-like center encased in a tougher exterior. The discs work as cushioning between vertebrae. A herniated disc, also called a slipped or ruptured disc, is when some of the jelly-like center comes out. It usually occurs in the lower back.

Although Romo’s injury has been disclosed, the details were not all released. However, based on Romo’s symptoms, and the time table for surgery, a lot can be assumed. According to reports, Romo’s herniated disc is in his lower back, and it is assumed that the L4/L5 disc was the issue. This assumption was made by considering his symptoms, which were motor nerve issues and hip pain. Due to the short amount of time he spent in surgery, his surgery was likely endoscopic. This means it was done with a small incision, and in an outpatient setting. He most likely had a microdiscectomy.

Discectomy Surgery

Microdiscectomy is a discectomy surgery that uses a special microscope to see the disc and nerves. This viewpoint allows the surgeon to make a smaller cut and helps them to avoid damaging surrounding tissue. A microdiscectomy is the removal of the portion of the disc that is herniated and pushing into the spinal canal. It repairs the herniation. Another high-profile quarterback, Peyton Manning, has had two microdiscectomy procedures.

Prior to Romo’s microdiscectomy, he had an epidural injection. This shot in the spine relieves pain and inflammation. However, in most cases it is only a temporary fix to a larger issue. We can assume that he was still in pain a few days after the injection, necessitating surgery.

Recovery Post Discectomy Surgery

After a microdiscectomy, patients are encouraged to get up and walk around, and slowly get back to daily activities. After 4 to 8 weeks post-surgery, exercise is usually allowed for the average patient. However, with Romo being a professional athlete it’s likely that his recovery will be longer and more closely monitored. For Romo, as long as there are no complications, this means he will be back in time for training camp. Unfortunately, additional trauma (which is likely given his position as a quarterback) and aging (which is inevitable) can worsen back pain or cause further back injuries. But for now, he should be on the road to recovery.

Microsurgical Spine Center offers minimally invasive back surgery, as well as injections for back pain and joint pain. To learn more, contact us or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964.