Jaguars' ex-quarterback needs spine surgery for herniated disc

Oct 20 2011
David Garrard, the ex-quarterback for NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, needs spine surgery to treat leg pain stemming from a herniated disc, according to a report from The Florida Times-Union. Garrard experienced a bulging disc after an injury he sustained during this season's training camp, but thought the problem was limited to his back.

"I rehabbed myself until my back was well enough that I could start playing again," Garrard said. "When I was telling everybody my back was fine, my back did feel fine. But my leg never felt fine. I never really considered that my leg was connected to the disk in my back. I just thought I had tight hips and I needed to stretch and keep that under control. Well, it was definitely all because of my disk in my back."

The spinal cord that connects the brain to the rest of the body is protected by the vertebrae, the facet joints and the shock-absorbing intervertebral discs that stabilize motion in between the bones. These round discs have two layers: the firm annulus fibrosus on the outside, and the gel-filled nucleus pulposus on the inside. The vertebrae and the discs help form a protective tunnel for the spinal cord to run the length of the back.

A herniated disc occurs when one of these structures ruptures or bulges out, putting pressure on the local nerves. This may cause back pain that can radiate out to other parts of the body, including the legs, as in Garrard's case.

It is best to take conservative approaches to back pain whenever possible. For a herniated disc, this may include exercises to strengthen the back muscles. Ideal activities may include aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming, and stretching exercises, such as yoga and Pilates. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may also help relieve pain.

In severe cases, a discectomy may be needed to remove part or all of a herniated disc. This surgery may be followed by spinal fusion to connect the bones on either side of an excised disc to provide further stability.

The back pain Garrard experienced during training camp eventually went away, but leg pain prompted him to consult the team's trainers and physical therapists. After rehab apparently aggravated the leg pain, a subsequent MRI revealed Garrard had a herniated disc in need of surgery.

In an email sent to the Times-Union, Garrard's agent Al Irby expressed anger that trainers working for the team, which released Garrard from his contract, did not accurately diagnose the problem.

"At $500,000 per game, they knew he would be down four to six weeks. They didn't want to pay that bill," Irby wrote.

Garrard said he'd been experiencing back problems since college, according to the Times-Union.

As a free agent, Garrard attracted the interest of both the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders, However, Irby disclosed Garrard's injury status to the Raiders, making Garrard's prospects for this season uncertain.

"I am definitely not retiring. I definitely want to be on a squad," Garrard said.