In late February, Amare Stoudemire admitted the roughly 15 pounds of muscle he gained in the offseason to strengthen his healing back may have robbed him of some of his quickness.
Well, those roughly 15 pounds may have led to the bulging disk in his back, according to a veteran NBA team doctor.
"Height probably doesn't make a difference," the doctor said, referring to Stoudemire's 6-10 frame. "Carrying more weight makes a difference."
The doctor said Stoudemire likely visited the same back surgery specialist in Miami he saw last summer when he was recovering from a pulled muscle in his back. He suffered the injury on April 19, 2011, while the Knicks were warming up to play the Celtics in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs.
After being told Stoudemire would undergo non-surgical treatment and rehabilitation, which would include an epidural, the doctor was not surprised.
"Most problems with disk problems that are symptomatic get better non-surgically with anti-inflammatory medication, rest, physical therapy, a variety of treatment, modalities, sometimes there are injections," the doctor said. "In a less common circumstance and it's really significant and you have a real neurological deficit, those patients may have surgery.
"But it's a very, very small percentage of patients that have back problems and need to have anything done. I think I've had three players that needed back surgery in 24 years. In fact, if you took 100 people off the street with no back pain and got an MRI on them, over 30 percent have herniated or bulging disks as the norm. So when they say a bulging disk, it could be a very minor thing or it could be a significant thing."
The doctor stressed that people shouldn't just isolate a bulging disk as a single issue. The "bulging" factor can cause neurological problems throughout the body, especially down the legs. Stoudemire's motor ability through the treatment process is something his doctors will be monitoring carefully.
"A disk problem can push on the nerve root that goes down the leg and can produce someone numbness, a tingling sensation and some weakness in that leg," the doctor said.
In general, the doctor said that it's not only rare for basketball players to have surgery to repair a bulging disk, but they're some of the rarest athletes to experience major and ongoing back problems.
"Not so much for basketball," the doctor said. "Gymnasts have more spine problems, spine fractures, because of the way they land. Football the same thing. Sometimes power lifters."
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