As a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan, I was distressed when I heard the recent reports that Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback Tony Romo may miss the remainder of the season because of a back injury he suffered in Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.
I decided to talk to Robert Berry, D.O., medical director of sports medicine at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano to get some questions answered about athletes and back injuries. Here’s what he had to say about Romo’s back injury:
Q: What types of back injuries can occur during football games?
The most serious back injuries are spinal cord injuries, but they are extremely rare. The most common back injuries are strains. Fractures can occur with significant trauma along with disc herniations.
Q: Why would a back injury prevent a quarterback from playing in a football game?
Pain could be one reason a quarterback may not play in a game, but depending upon the seriousness of the injury it may be to prevent a more serious or permanent injury. A quarterback must be able to be mobile and rotate and flex and extend their spine to throw a pass. If the doctors have diagnosed a fracture, another blow to the spine may cause a permanent neurological injury.
Q: There are some reports that torsion may have been the cause of Tony Romo’s injury. What is this, and how does it cause a back injury?
Torsion refers to rotation with a load applied to the spine and puts the intervertebral disc at risk of failure. It’s why we warn patients about bending their backs/spines and then rotating as it can cause serious disc/spine injury.
Q: What is the typical treatment plan for athletes with back injuries?
Rest, ice bath and warm compresses along with physical therapy. Oral or injectable anti-inflammatories may also be used. Back braces may be worn in the acute setting to provide support and protection.
Q: How long does it take for an athlete to get back on the field after a back injury?
Sometimes in just a few days with a simple strain, but athletes may lose an entire season if it’s a serious back injury.
For more information about back pain and injuries, take this quiz at BaylorHealth.com.