Giants linebacker Kiwanuka returns to play after being sidelined by herniated disc

Aug 23 2011
NFL linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka is rejoining New York Giants teammates this season following a neck injury in 2010.

Kiwanuka was diagnosed with a herniated disc after experiencing strong and persistent neck pain, according to Although this injury could have been detrimental to his career, the linebacker is preparing for the coming season after spending the past year on the injured reserve, according to the news source.

Herniated discs occur when a spinal disc slips or ruptures, according to the Mayo Clinic. Common herniated disc symptoms are back or neck pain, or weakness in an arm or leg, the website reports. Although the problem is sometimes caused by trauma such as a fall, most disc herniations are the result of the wear-and-tear of aging. It is unclear if Kiwanuka’s injury is attributed to football or the natural disc degeneration.

The Mayo Clinic reports that people between the ages of 35 and 45 who have higher body weights or work at a strenuous occupation that requires lifting heavy objects are at a higher risk for developing a herniated disc. Kiwanuka, a 28-year-old, 260-pound football player, was also at risk for developing this condition due to the extensive physical demands of his job.

Herniated discs are generally treated with pain medications or muscle relaxants. Physical therapy is also often used to strengthen the supporting muscles and help prevent the pain from reoccurring, according to the Mayo Clinic. In extreme cases surgery is an option, although doctors usually try other treatments before considering an invasive procedure due to the extended recovery time and risk of complications, according to the website.

Even though a herniated disc can be a career-ending injury, Kiwanuka received medical clearance in February and has returned to the Giants training camp, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Boston College alum was a first-round draft pick and is considered a valuable defensive player, according to the newspaper. Although his injury limited him to three games last season, the Giants reached an unofficial deal with Kiwanuka on Thursday, indicating that he intends to play this season, the news source reported.