Monday, September 12, 2011

Peyton Manning & Me: Protect Ya Neck

While the lockout was easily the biggest story of the NFL offseason, there’s no doubt that Peyton Manning’s neck has been the biggest story of the NFL’s preseason. During the early parts of the story, few doubted that Manning would recover in time to suit up for the Colts’ opener against the Houston Texans. Much of this was due to the tremendous durability that Peyton Manning has exhibited during his long & storied NFL career. However, another reason that most people assumed Manning’s injury wouldn’t prevent him from missing any games is that most people have no idea how debilitating and serious neck injuries (particularly neck injuries that result in nerve damage) can be. I was actually always under the impression that Manning would be forced to sit out games, largely because a little over a year ago I suffered a very similar injury to Peyton Manning.

Last May, while on vacation as I waited to begin a new job, I went to the gym on a Tuesday morning in the same way I’d done hundreds of times before. I felt no different that day than I had the night before when I played pickup basketball with friends. However, within minutes, while doing an ab exercise I felt a sharp pain in my neck & shoulder as I raised up. I wasn’t sure what happened but I knew my workout was over. My right arm/shoulder was in severe pain and was quickly getting worse. I could barely handle the 4 minute drive from the gym to my house. I called my (now) wife to come home and take me to the doctor. By the time she arrived home 20 minutes later, I was writhing in pain on my living room floor. I collapsed in pain three separate time while trying to walk to my wife’s car and had to be wheeled into my doctor’s office. Once there, the doctor immediately ordered x-rays and administered a pain killing injection in my ass. As strong as I’m sure the injection was, it had no discernible effect on my pain. My doctor said he had an idea what may have happened to me but need x-rays & MRIs to be sure. X-rays were up first.




I went into the x-ray room and struggled to stand up for shoulder x-rays. After two x-rays, the time came for me to raise my right arm above my shoulder. I’m not exactly sure what happened after this but I do know that the next thing I remember is looking up at the nurse while I lay on the x-ray room floor, covered in sweat. I was a ghostly shade of white and there would be no more x-rays, or anything else at the Doctor’s office that day. The pain was so intense that my body literally shut down for a brief moment. My wife took me home, filled me with pain meds and muscle relaxers and put me to bed. Over the next few days, I ingested an ungodly amount of both oxycodone and carisoprodol in an effort to curb my tremendous pain. When I was finally able to have an MRI, my worst fears were confirmed. I had herniated a disc in my neck. The C5 to be exact and it was pressing down on the nerves located near C5. The result of this was an intense searing pain in my right arm, specifically my tricep, forearm and wris,t as well as a total loss of all feeling in the index and middle finger of my right hand.



Now, Peyton Manning is a far more well conditioned athlete than I was, or am, and has access to the finest medical care and rehabilitative services, however nerves are a very tricky thing and they all react differently to major injuries. One of the things that we’ve heard about Manning is that he lacks strength and stamina in his right arm as a result of this injury. I suffered the same fate. In fact, my nerve damage was so severe that one of the heads of my right tricep muscle died. Literally. I have no lateral head in my right tricep muscle anymore. Now, I don’t believe that Manning’s herniation and nerve damage were this severe but I do suspect he has suffered a great loss of strength in his tricep and shoulder. Strength that is going to take a long time to be restored in full, if ever.

After a couple of weeks, most of the referential, nerve related pain had subsided and I was told I could begin physical therapy within another week or so. This physical therapy would last nearly 3 months. During this time, I would be unable to run, play basketball or (obviously) lift weights. My neck was still so fragile that any jarring motions would jeopardize my recovery and, perhaps, cause the herniation to worsen. Once I was able to resume some level of physical activity, the only approved exercises were riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical. At the time of my injury, I was in some of the best shape of my life and weighed a little over 170 lbs. By the time I came up to D.C. in late June, I had dropped to 150 lbs. My lowest weight since I was a senior in high school. Physical therapy was an arduous and, often times, painful undertaking but with the help of a great team group of PTs I was able to finish my rehabilitation in just under 3 months. I was released to begin running on grass and, within a month begin playing basketball again (though my doctor advised to give up basketball completely). Unfortunately, playing basketball again wouldn’t be as easy I thought.

I’m a pretty decent basketball player and have shooting range that easily extends to the NBA three point line. The first time I attempted to shoot a basketball after my injury was from the free throw line. The ball ended up 5 feet short and about three feet to the right. That’s how much strength I had lost in my right tricep and shoulder. I took me nearly 6 months to rebuild the strength on my right side to the point that I could play basketball at the same level again. It took me nearly a year to restore my overall strength to pre-injury levels. In order to lessen the strain on my neck & disc, I have completely changed how I lift weights (many more reps, much less weight) and adhere to a daily icing regimen for my neck. I still have no feeling in my right index finger above the knuckle. As I think I’ve communicated, this is a major injury. One that dramatically effects quality of life as well as your ability to participate in any type of athletic competition, much less one as fast, violent and demanding as professional football.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since my injury and I’m back up to around 165 lbs. I’m able to play basketball at a high level again and I lift 5-6 days a week again, just as I did prior to my neck injury. However, I’m not the same. Not even close. I don’t sleep as well as I once did, I can’t do things I once took for granted like riding a roller coaster or sleeping on my stomach, or even folding laundry. My right arm is somewhat smaller than my left as a result of the loss of the lateral head of my tricep and other nerve related damage. Simply put, I’m not the same person, physically, anymore.

Like I said earlier, I’m not Peyton Manning nor did I have the access to the type of care that he will be afforded. But I did suffer a very similar injury at around the same age. I feel confident in saying his next few months will be hellish. May and June of last year definitely were for me. Like most men who played lots of sports, I've had my fair share of injuries over the years. Lots of broken fingers, three broken noses, a torn calf muscle, a fractured ankle, a broken jaw (in two places) and a host of others. None of these compare to the herniation of my C5. Not even close. I sincerely hope that Peyton Manning recovers fully and is back on the field for the Indianapolis Colts. I can’t see it happening this year. And frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked if he never does again.

47 comments:

Danimal said...

Wow.....that sucks. Props mark for not bitching about this prior.

TR said...

One more 9-11 comment. The WSJ had a good article on KBW last week, focusing on how the bank has moved on since losing 67 employees on 9-11. Among the 67 were Mark Ludvigsen and a W&M alum named Greg Trost who graduated a year behind me in '97. There is a painting hanging in KBW's office which lists all the victims' names in the style of an American flag. Lud and Trost are on there. Pretty touching.

Link to article is below. The painting is towards the bottom. You can click to enlarge it to see names.

http://tinyurl.com/3k3kmgn

zman said...

Marks' flowing like Christ when he speaks the gospel.

zman said...

That goosebump-inducing State Farm ad was apparently directed by Spike Lee. Is it just me or is "concrete jungle where dreams are made of" not a legitimate English sentence? The dreams are either made in the concrete jungle, or they're made of something (possibly the concrete jungle). The concrete jungle can't be where dreams are "made of".

TR said...

The song later states that "there's nothing you can't do," which implies you can butcher the english language, end a sentence in a preposotion AND dream of jungles in jungles.

Greg said...

Wait, you're implying that you're not ghostly white most of the time?

Whitney said...

Mark, good post about a bad event. Sorry to hear about it. How exactly did it happen? Or do you know? Was it the particular lifting you were doing or a degenerative condition? Sounded awful. I'd have been screwed if it happened to me, since prescription drugs do nothing for me.

zman said...

Nadal is unglued.

zman said...

No one can hold serve. It's like watching 12 year olds.

Dave said...

prescription drugs do nothing for me? that's one of the weirdest blanket statements i've heard.

great post, mark-- i love reading about injuries and recovery-- it's inspirational and scary-- i have been fairly lucky so far, just run of the mill injuries, nothing as painful and debilitating as this, but i'm sure it's going to happen sooner or later . . .

Mark said...

Whit - I was doing a floating crunch on a bosu ball. It's a crunch with your feet lifted off the ground where you're balancing yourself on the bosu ball with your back. Doctor said it was likely a degenerative disc and would've likely happened at some point down the line. The exaggerated bent over position my neck was in during that exercise and many other crunches and situps prior probably contributed. As did my life long habit of sleeping on my stomach.

It was pretty awful. About the drugs. I used to really enjoy pharmaceuticals in my younger days but hadn't done any in years. I never felt doped up or high when I was taking these. Then I went for a fairly large tattoo on my ribcage in January and took half of one of the painkillers. I was high as fuck, completely stupid. Made me realize just how strong the drugs I was taking were, and consequently just how much pain I was in as I was taking these and muscle relaxers two at a time without feeling the effects of them.

rob said...

just turned on the tennis match. has the quality been this high the whole time? this shit's sublime.

rob said...

dave, when you've dabbled as much in pharma's cornucopia as our friend igor, not much of anything makes much of a dent. except shitloads of beer. and, oddly, mentos.

rob said...

and damn, mark. i injured my back in graduate school and it was debilitating. fortunately it was just inflammation from impact trauma (got kneed in the back playing flag football) and healed after about 3 weeks without intervention. can't imagine that kind of rehab.

rob said...

nadal's voice is beckham-esque in its muppet-like quality

Mark said...

When I met you last summer, Rob, I was still very much injured. And had just started rehab. I was also really, really thin.

I was actually pretty worried about how I'd hold up on that DC/NY extended weekend. Worked out well though. I was much less of a hindrance to things than Greg.

zman said...

This final was like a Yanks/Sawks game with many protracted at-bats (er, points). I think the quality of the service games was very low, but there were many exciting points and it was generally fun to watch. Nadal even tried a few touch shots for the first time in the history of ever, prompting McEnroe (the greatest touch player in the history of ever) to say "That's not even close to being good enough." Both players are brilliant baseline shotmakers and I routinely said "How did he do that?" throughout the match. So, rob, I guess the answer is that yes, the match was that good throughout, but snobs might argue that it was a poor service display by both men.

zman said...

Tom Brady! Uggs! And a song I recognize but cannot name!

TR said...

Who was it that called him Choke-a-vic? Dude practiced tennis while his country was being bombed by NATO. Nadal didn't have the same experience learning the game in the Spanish Isles.

Djokovic just completed one of the most impressive men's tennis seasons of all time. Gotta give the guy the credit he deserves.

rob said...

it was the baseline play that had me awed - impossible for mere mortals to contemplate the difficulty of the shit they were doing as a matter of course.

rob said...

nobody called him chokeavic, tr. i called him 'choke a bitch' when he was floundering about against federer. you wanna make something of it?

zman said...

TR is Wayne Brady.

I saw Nadal play at the US Open once. Dude isn't human. Later on my father and I were walking along outside the stadium, he was berating me for being stupid about something instead of looking where he was going, and literally walked into Maria Sharipova. Physical contact was made. She isn't human either. All my father could say was "Waaaaaah" and then he stopped talking for 3 minutes. He was overwhelmed.

zman said...

The Pats have two Gronkowskis and a Gostkowski? They need to work a trade with the Bengals for Gradkowski. And with the Panthers for the other Gronkowski.

Greg said...

I believe it was da'Teej who debuted the "Choke-a-vic" label.

zman said...

What's the record for passing yards in a game?

rob said...

551, i think. norm van brocklin.

rob said...

sorry, 554

Jerry said...

From the nobody cares about your fantasy team file:

My team just suffered the single worst possible play in fantasy football. I'm against Brady and Welker. 26.5 points on one play, plus it put Welker over the yardage bonus for a total of 29.5 points. I guess it could've been worse if I had Miami's defense.

zman said...

I will bet my testicle of your choice that J-Lo does not drive a Fiat. They should've used Monica Belluci for that ad.

zman said...

I'm in a league that gives bonus points for "out of position scores," so the worst possible scenario would be if Welker threw a 99 yard TD to Brady (and you had Miami's D).

rob said...

out of position scores is even dumber than your position on tacos

TR said...

Points are huge.

rob said...

tribe hoops sked includes roadies at st. john's and missouri and a jan 2 game in fairfax against gmu. team dcg:tb, plan to make the trip to the latter. we won't let shlara navigate.

T.J. said...

Marls will be at the Johnnies tilt, I hope.

Whitney said...

Gents, off-topic but I need a quick rec. Buying a computer in the next couple of days. Replacing a dead HP laptop. Thinking laptop, maybe Dell or Toshiba, although still tempted by the iMac (I lost mine in the divorce) or even iPad.

Anybody have any advice to share? I am on lots of fences and need some direction.

TR said...

I bought a Dell laptop 2 years ago and absolutely hate it. Backlight and original battery died after 18 mos and had to be replaced, w/o any warranty coverage. And the original battery life wasn't any good to begin with. I wanted something cheaper than $1,000 and I got a heavy, flawed machine.

I am done with Dells forever. Unless you're totally dependent on running MS Office, I would go to Apple. Folks seem to love them. I know you can run MS Office on them, but it seems like a slight pain in the ass to configure it. That's my $.02.

zman said...

I am a trifty bastard when it comes to computers because they are guaranteed to become obsolete or die within 3 years. I always buy the cheapest HP/Compaq laptop I can get. Unless you're into video games or graphic design you probably don't need a ton of computing horsepower. I got a 1 TB USB hard drive for something like $69 and I keep all my files on there so if the computer craps out I can just swap a new one in.

Squeaky said...

HP/Compaq is basically having a fire sale on their laptops because they are trying to sell that division. There will be support for everything they sell. I have a compaq that is 8 years old, still runs and have had one failed drive over the years.

Dell is not bad but get a warranty if you go that route. I've had the work one for just over a year and have had two drive failures.

Thinkpads are decent laptops but on the pricer side of things. Klaus still might be able to hook you up with an IBM discount if they still offer it.

If you have the money go Apple, you are familiar with it. iPad would be possible but you's need to add on keyboard for writing longer things like emails and such. The downside to going just iPad is your music collection adn the sync to a pc/mac. You are not fitting all of your music on there. And you probably need a pc/mac to sync the ipad to it. So screw the ipad.

Squeaky said...

Damn one last thought, my brother swears by Toshiba Satellite laptops. That is their higher end line.

Marls said...

Whit,
I went with a macbook pro sevral years ago and love it. The inital price point is a bit high, but the ease of use and lack of wrangling with software updates, incompatable anti-virus, blue screen of death problems, ect. has made it well worth it.

Whitney said...

Thanks, dudes. Sincerely appreciate the input.

Squeaky said...

It is soccer but that there was a quick goal in the UEFA game today. Suck it Barca.

http://goo.gl/zw5PB sbnation link

Squeaky said...

Add this makes me feel safe. TSA has a "Good Catch" website: http://goo.gl/NFPbo

They've only made 9 'good' catches this year. The last one has a horrible title "Snakes on a plane - Almost".

rob said...

the g:tb tim wakefield jinx is, mercifully, over

Jerry said...

Just get an ipad. You'll learn to write in Chinese an play the piano.

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Sienna Christie said...

I’m not really up on the NFL, but I do know that neck injuries can be pretty serious, so I hope that Peyton Manning could make a full recovery. The recovery doesn’t have to be quick. As a matter of fact, if he rushes the recovery, it may end up even worsening the injury. I applaud you for powering through your neck injury. I hope that you are continuing to recover little by little, day by day.

Sienna Christie