Top American luge competitor Tony Benshoof retiring after spine surgery

Oct 12 2011
Decorated athlete Tony Benshoof, a three-time Olympian and winner of 37 international medals, has announced his retirement after having spine surgery twice since 2009.

After a career spanning 22 years, Benshoof is leaving the sport as the most successful men's luge athlete in the history of USA Luge, the sport's National Governing Body.

"It was a great run and I’m going to miss the team and the organization," Benshoof said in the statement. "Hopefully I can stay involved in one capacity or another."

Benshoof's career includes seven national titles. Currently, he is the manager of a bar and restaurant in Siren, Wisconsin.

The spinal column consists of the vertebrae, the facet joints and the intervertebral discs that cushion the spaces in between the bones. Degenerative disc disease is the result of injury or age-related degradation of the gel-filled structures that act as shock absorbers in the spine. When a disc ruptures or bulges out of place, it could put pressure on the surrounding nerves, causing back pain which may radiate out to other parts of the body. This is what is known as a herniated disc.

It is best to approach a herniated disc with conservative treatments at first. This may include anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy. Special exercises, massages or support devices such as corsets, back belts or braces may also help.

However, there are certain cases of a herniated disc that must be treated surgically. This is usually done through a discectomy, a procedure that removes part or all of the offending disc.

Benshoof needed an operation to correct two injured discs in December of 2009. The following spring, Benshoof had more surgery to treat additional damage. Despite rehabilitation, he never felt ready to return to the sport, according to USA Luge.

"We want to thank him for a stellar career and great memories, and wish him well wherever life takes him," said Ron Rossi, CEO of USA Luge. "We also hope he stays close to the sport so he can share the knowledge and experience he has gleaned over the years with our younger athletes."