Football Players At Risk for Back, Neck & Spine Problems Years After Playing
Oct 21, 2013 - 10:28:56 AM

23% of Former College Football Players Had Undergone Spine Surgery  - Twice the Rate of the General Population

( - New York, NY - A great deal of recent focus has been placed on the occurrence and consequences of head injuries and concussions in football players.  It is also a reality that football players frequently sustain knee, shoulder, and ankle injuries. Acute spine injuries receive much attention as well, especially if paralysis or nerve injury occurs.

What has not been assessed is the long-term effect of football on the integrity of the spine. Certainly football players injure their back and neck when playing but as soon as they feel better, the general belief is that they have recovered.  However, an injury to the spine, whether the neck or back, has consequences that can manifest themselves in significant ways years later.  It is well-known that eighty percent of individuals suffer a neck or back problem at some time in their life for which they seek treatment from a health-care professional.  For most individuals the problems resolve on its own or can be managed readily with non-surgical treatment such as chiropractic, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.  Less than ten percent of those who receive medical attention ever require surgery.

We surveyed men who had played college football twenty years ago and asked about the state of their spine.  Our preliminary survey found that twenty three percent had undergone spine surgery.  This is more than twice the rate of the general population.  As a neurosurgeon operating on the spine I am not surprised by these results.  Spine-centered problems can be profoundly debilitating; studies have shown that individuals who suffer from chronic back problems have the lowest quality-of- life index of any medical group.  

We need to expand our survey to obtain more solid information but it is clear that those who play football need to be aware that they risk suffering from back and neck problems years after they have stopped playing the game.  We also need to begin looking more carefully, not only at ways to protect the cervical spine from dangerous fractures but also at how to protect the spine overall.  Most individuals play football for only a relatively few years of their life and should not have to suffer as a consequence many years hence.


About New York Neurosurgeon Ezriel Kornel MD

A principal of Brain & Spine Surgeons of New York since 1990, Dr. Kornel is in the forefront of minimally invasive neurosurgery (MIS). MIS is used to minimize the trauma of surgery and increase the speed of recovery. Stemming from his interest in microsurgery, Dr. Kornel has become an expert in minimally invasive endoscopic surgery of the spine as well as minimally invasive approaches in the surgical treatment of brain tumors. Because of his particular interest in cervical spine surgery, he is one of the first neurosurgeons in the New York metropolitan area to replace damaged cervical discs with the newly introduced artificial discs. He was trained in Stockholm in the use of the Gamma Knife and, when indicated, utilizes this stereotactic radio surgical technique for the treatment of brain tumors as well as for the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. He is the director of the Institute for Neurosciences at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY and is affiliated with many of the leading hospitals in the area.

Dr. Kornel gained his initial expertise during his neurosurgical residency at the George Washington University Medical Center under the tutelage of Hugo Rizzoli, M.D., at the time one of the most renown and respected neurosurgeons in the world. Dr. Kornel has numerous mentions in the biography of James Brady, press secretary to President Reagan, because of his involvement in Mr. Brady's care after his tragic gunshot injury. Highly personalized attention combined with the utmost dedication to the ultimate well-being of his patients is what motivates Dr. Kornel in his efforts to continue. 


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