Spine Surgery and Sports
When people hear the words “Spine Surgery” or “Spine Fusion”- listeners automatically think of people paralyzed or unable to walk. Unfortunately, this generalization is untrue. Many people undergo spinal fusion surgery and return to their prior activities; feeling much better. Some of these people even return to high level physical activity such as competitive basketball.
Spine Surgery and Sports In Action
Johnny McCants is the star senior player for the Onante basketball team. The 6’7” wingman may be the best player in New Mexico. Johnny’s athletic accomplishments are even more remarkable considering he underwent Low Back Surgery in the summer of 2014. Johnny suffered from an acquired spinal condition known as Spondylolisthesis. 4-6% of the population has Spondylolisthesis but in some people this condition can be severe. Spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra) is where a spine bone shifts in front of another spine bone. This condition can cause low back pain or leg pain. In Johnny’s case, his bottom vertebra L5 had almost completely fallen off of his tailbone. This was causing severe back and right leg pain.
Johnny put up with his pain for some time and continued to play competitive basketball. As he went through his growth spurt, he began to experience more pain. After much discussion and conservative treatment, a decision was made to proceed with surgery.
In the summer of 2014, Johnny underwent a back fusion surgery at Mountainview hospital in Las Cruces. Within six months, Johnny was playing basketball and has continued to improve since. Per Dave Krider of MaxSports, “The versatile Onante wingman has risen from being a valuable substitute to becoming, the No 1 player in New Mexico as a senior.” Johnny currently leads the 2nd ranked Onante Knights and is a candidate for New Mexico Mr. Basketball.
“Johnny is an amazing athlete which has helped him recover from the surgery. Obviously not everybody can play competitive basketball after a low back fusion, but having the right attitude and motivation to succeed plays a significant role in recovery.” says his Spine Surgeon Paul Saiz, MD. “Back surgery can help people decrease pain and improve their activity levels. Rarely, is Surgery the first option, however, after non surgery options fail, Surgery can be the best option.” Stated Dr Saiz.
As the season continues, Johnny McCants may be the next New Mexico Mr. Basketball.
-Dr. Paul Saiz Las Cruces