Parise's herniated disc a common injury--hockey player or not

- A Minnesota sports team losing a star player to an injury seems like a familiar story, but what happened to Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild isn't just something that affects athletes.

He reportedly hurt his back in January of last year, but played through the pain. Now, after what he calls a "setback" before the start of this season, Parise decided it was time to go under the knife to treat a herniated disc.

It's a malady that's all too common--for athletes and average Joes alike--says Dr. Anne Moore of Tria Orthopaedic Center.

Dr. Moore didn't treat Parise, but says the discs act as shock absorbers between the bones of the spine. When one bulges or gets damaged, it can put pressure on nearby nerves.

"Disc herniations can be painful," she said. "If you look at anatomy, especially if the disc herniates and puts pressure on the nerve, then that nerve--where it travels into the buttock or down the leg or into the leg--can cause pain."

Dr. Moore says herniated discs are fairly common particularly among professional athletes like Tiger Woods and Tony Romo, who both suffered similar injuries caused by repeatedly bending and twisting the torso.

But you don't have to play a professional sport to get one.

"I've had people who simply rolled over in bed and herniated a disk, so it doesn't have to be a forceful action that causes it," Dr. Moore said.

Dr. Moore says most of the time, a herniated disc can be treated with over-the-counter medication, ice and physical therapy, but that sometimes surgery is needed to remove part or all of the affected disc and relieve the pressure.

"Recovery is usually in that several week category, depending on what you are going back to," Dr. Moore said. "If you are going back to a high performance job, then several weeks. If you are going to a normal desk job, you are usually allowed to go back fairly soon--within a week or so."

The Wild say Parise could miss eight to 10 weeks of the season for his recovery.

But experts say about 90 percent of athletes are able to return to sports at the same level they had before their injury.

"Post operatively, people usually do pretty darn well," Dr. Moore said. "But there's no guarantee you can't herniate again."

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