ISSN Number - pISSN 2250 – 0685 | eISSN 2321-3817

Your Advertisement

Return to Football after a Cervical Disk Arthroplasty: A Case Report

Case report
PDF Downloaded : 8 Fulltext Viewed : 72 views

Return to Football after a Cervical Disk Arthroplasty: A Case Report

Learning Point of the Article :
Cervical disc replacement can be used for treatment in high level athletes.
Case report | Volume 12 | Issue 05 | JOCR May 2022 | Page 19-21 | James Satalich[1], Sean Carter[1], Anthony Fisichella[1], Jonathan Widmeyer[2], Prakasam Kalluri[1], Alexander Vap[1]. DOI: 10.13107/jocr.2022.v12.i05.2798
Authors: James Satalich[1], Sean Carter[1], Anthony Fisichella[1], Jonathan Widmeyer[2], Prakasam Kalluri[1], Alexander Vap[1]
[1]Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital, Richmond, Virginia,
[2]VCU Medical School, Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital, Richmond, Virginia.
Address of Correspondence:
Mr. Jonathan Widmeyer, Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital, Richmond, Virginia. E-mail:
Article Received : 2021-11-09,
Article Accepted : 2022-03-16

Introduction: Symptomatic cervical spine disk hernations in high-level athletes are traditionally treated with anterior cervical disk fusion (ACDF) after failed conservative management. Unfortunately, an ACDF comes with decreased mobility and only a return to sport 73.5% of the time. In high-level athletes, mobility and range of motion can be critical to their long-term success. This case report will discuss the successful treatment of a C6–C7 disk herniation with a cervical disk replacement (CDR).

Case Report:This is a 23-year-old football player whom had a left paracentral C6–C7 disk herniation causing foraminal stenosis. He had significant triceps muscle wasting and weakness and he was not able to participate in football secondary to his symptoms. After failing 6 weeks of conservative, he underwent a CDR. At 8 weeks postoperatively, he was cleared for football and return to sport without complications.

Conclusion: The CDR provides high-level athletes the ability to return to contact sports safely. In this unique case, we present a division one football player with a symptomatic cervical herniated disk that was treated with a CDR and return to sport without any limitations or complications. The CDR was able to treat symptoms, improve strength and motion, and ultimately allow the player to return to football. More studies need to be performed, but ultimately CDR in athletes can get them back on the field, improve their cervical range of motion, and decrease their risk of adjacent segment disease in the long run when compared to the cervical fusion.

Keywords: Cervical disk replacement, anterior cervical disk fusion, contact sports.


Cervical disk replacement (CDR) and anterior cervical disk fusion (ACDF) are both methods of treatment of cervical disk disease in symptomatic high-level athletes [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. CDR has proven to be a good alternative to ACDF, providing similar benefits, and mitigating some long-term risks, including greatly improved risk of future adjacent segment disease [6, 7, 8]. There has been good evidence for the safety of returning to play in contact sport athletes receiving ACDF, but the data have been sparse regarding this aspect of CDR [4, 9]. There have been case reports of patients performing well in contact sports after CDR [3]. This case will provide further evidence on the success with a CDR in a high-level football athlete.

Case Report:

A 23-year-old healthy male division one football player felt a pop in his neck while weightlifting. Initial symptoms were left arm pain, radiculopathy, and global weakness. X-rays were negative for fracture or dislocation (Fig. 1, 2).
His left arm pain and radiculopathy resolved with 2 weeks of rest, but, thereafter, he continued to have subjective weakness in his triceps. His main complaint was the loss push off strength with his dumb bell bench press. He could bench 110lbs on the right arm compared to only 65lbs with his left arm. At the 2-week mark post-injury, on physical examination, he had normal strength, sensation, and reflexes throughout the left upper extremity. The only positive finding was he had triceps muscle wasting.
After 6 weeks post-injury and completion of physical therapy, stretching, and NSAID’s, a MRI was obtained. This showed a left paracentral C6–C7 disk herniation extending into the foramen, causing foraminal stenosis and his symptoms (Fig. 3, 4). Due to significant muscle wasting and continued weakness after a course of conservative management, a C6–C7 anterior discectomy and arthroplasty were performed by a fellowship trained spine surgeon (Fig. 5, 6, 7, 8). In the post-operative setting, he underwent 4 weeks of rest. At the 4-week mark, he gradually increased his lifting and started performing running and agility drills with the team. At 8 weeks, he was cleared to return to sport. He is currently 9 months out from surgery and competing in contact sports without any complications.


In high-level athletics, strength is critical to compete. In the setting of a cervical disk herniation leading to arm weakness, a CDR should be considered as a reliable form of treatment. The literature is well dense with evidence on ACDF’s and their return to sport, but is very limited with regards to CDR [9, 10]. ACDF can also lead to increased risk of adjacent segment disease long term [11]. In our case, we highlight a division one football player whom undergoes a CDR with full return to play without any setbacks or complications.


The current literature has evidence showing CDR leads to improved range of motion and decreased risk of adjacent disk disease when compared to ACDF. If patients can return to sport and have improved long-term outcomes, CDR would be the treatment recommendation. At this time, there is limited evidence and there needs to be research into CDR vesus ACDF in the return to sport in high-level contact athletics and long-term outcomes.

Clinical Message:

CDR is a reasonable option for the treatment of a symptomatic cervical disk herniation and may provide increased mobility for the athlete.


  • 1.
    Watkins RG 4th, Chang D, Watkins RG 3rd. Return to play after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion in professional athletes. Orthop J Sports Med 2018;6:2325967118779672. [Google Scholar]
  • 2.
    McAnany SJ, Overley S, Andelman S, Patterson DC, Cho SK, Qureshi S, et al. Return to play in elite contact athletes after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion: A meta-analysis. Global Spine J 2017;7:552-9. [Google Scholar]
  • 3.
    Lindi-Sugino R, Hartl R, Klezl Z. Cervical arthroplasty in a professional kick-boxing fighter, 7 years follow-up. Acta Ortop Mex 2021;35:282-85. [Google Scholar]
  • 4.
    Leider J, Piche JD, Khan M, Aleem I. Return-to-play outcomes in elite athletes after cervical spine surgery: A systematic review. Sports Health 2021;13:437-45. [Google Scholar]
  • 5.
    Molinari RW, Pagarigan K, Dettori JR, Molinari R Jr, Dehaven KE. Return to play in athletes receiving cervical surgery: A systematic review. Global Spine J 2016;6:89-96. [Google Scholar]
  • 6.
    Steinberger J, Qureshi S. Cervical disc replacement. Neurosurg Clin N Am 2020;31:73-9. [Google Scholar]
  • 7.
    Xu S, Liang Y, Zhu Z, Qian Y, Liu H. Adjacent segment degeneration or disease after cervical total disc replacement: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Orthop Surg Res 2018;13:244. [Google Scholar]
  • 8.
    Badve SA, Nunley PD, Kurra S, Lavelle WF. Review of long-term outcomes of disc arthroplasty for symptomatic single level cervical degenerative disc disease. Expert Rev Med Devices 2018;15:205-17. [Google Scholar]
  • 9.
    Mai HT, Chun DS, Schneider AD, Hecht AC, Maroon JC, Hsu WK. The difference in clinical outcomes after anterior cervical fusion, disk replacement, and foraminotomy in professional athletes. Clin Spine Surg 2018;31:E80-4. [Google Scholar]
  • 10.
    Reinke A, Behr M, Preuss A, Villard J, Meyer B, Ringel F. Return to sports after cervical total disc replacement. World Neurosurg 2017;97:241-6. [Google Scholar]
  • 11.
    Maroon JC, Bost JW, Petraglia AL, Lepere DB, Norwig J, Amann C, et al. Outcomes after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion in professional athletes. Neurosurgery 2013;73:103-12; discussion 112. [Google Scholar]
How to Cite This Article: Satalich J, Widmeyer J, Kalluri P, Vap A. Return to Football after a Cervical Disk Arthroplasty: A Case Report. Journal of Orthopaedic Case Reports 2022 May;12(5): 19-21. Return to Football after a Cervical Disk Arthroplasty: A Case Report Journal of Orthopaedic Case Reports 2022 May; (05): 19-21