Green Bay Packer Nick Collins has spine surgery for herniated disc

Oct 4 2011
Nick Collins, the safety for the NFL's Green Bay Packers, had spine surgery to treat a herniated disc in his neck, according to a beat reporter covering the team.

The intervertebral discs are gel-filled structures that cushion the spaces between the vertebrae, acting as shock absorbers and stabilizing motion of the spine. These discs can degenerate over time because of mechanical wear and tear, making them more likely to rupture or bulge out. If a herniated disc puts pressure on the surrounding nerves, it may cause back pain that could radiate out to other parts of the body. Herniated discs may also be the result of injury.

A herniated disc may be repaired through a procedure known as discectomy, which removes part or all of the offending disc. This surgery is often followed by spine fusion, which connects the bones on either side of an excised disc in order to stabilize movement. This can be done with the help of bone grafts from another part of the patient's body or from a cadaver, special cages or protein factors that promote bone growth, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Doctors speculate that Collins may have injured himself in a game with the Carolina Panthers, during which his head collided with the thigh of running back Jonathan Stewart, according to Collins' agent Alan Herman. The Packers said the safety will be out for the rest of the year.

Collins may not have needed the cervical fusion surgery were he to never play football again, Herman told the beat reporter.

"The doctor was very clear about it in terms of the surgery," Herman said. "Nick totally understands the need to do this. This was the way to go. It's going to give him a chance. He would like the possibility of playing again."