Rockies pitcher in 'serious but stable' condition after spine surgery

Aug 8 2011
Playing your favorite sport - even doing it at the professional level - can be a pain in the neck, as Colorado Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio found out this past weekend.

The Dominican-born baseball player underwent an emergency surgery to repair a fracture in a neck vertebra that occurred when he was hit in the head with a ball on August 6, according to media reports.

As of August 8, the 24-year-old was still recovering in an intensive care unit at the Denver Health Medical Center. Unsurprisingly, there have been many questions about the future of his career, and there are reports that his doctors are not committal about it, though they sound cautiously optimistic.

One of the physicians who treated the athlete, Allen Schreiber, MD, was quoted by the Denver Post as saying that he had "no idea" what Nicasio's long term prognosis might be, but he stressed that given the player's young age, "he can bounce back. He has every reasonable chance to come back completely," quoted by the news provider.

Serious injuries of the back and neck are not uncommon among athletes, especially in sports like baseball, football and golf. Although some of these injuries, like Nicasio's, cannot be prepared for or prevented, many other traumas stem from insufficient or improper warmups before practice or game. Experts suggest that, depending on the type of sport, these should include back stretches and exercises that strengthen and tone all major muscle groups.

In addition to protecting athletes from injuries, these types of exercises can help them enjoy their favorite sports for longer and avoid back pain symptoms and other discomfort later in life. According to Medscape, chronic lower back pain is the most common cause of disability in Americans younger than 45, necessitating spine surgery in the most severe cases.