Returning to Sports After Back Surgery

Back surgery doesn’t signal an end to your sports career. Whether you’re a pro or a weekend warrior, however, there’s a right way and a wrong way to get moving again after spinal surgery.

Board-certified neurosurgeon, Dr. Patrick Doherty, is a well-known spine expert who leads our team at Yale Neurosurgery New London in New London, Connecticut. Dr. Doherty specializes in minimally invasive, robot-assisted back surgery and supports each patient throughout the recovery process.

Learn what he recommends regarding back surgery and a successful return to sports.

Explore your options before you schedule surgery

At Yale Neurosurgery, Dr. Doherty completes a full evaluation before recommending back surgery. He also gives you the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the details of your surgery as well as the recovery process. During this evaluation, be clear about your expectations and desire to return to sports following the surgery.

Every patient is unique. The speed with which you return to recreational or professional sports often depends on the condition being treated, your level of competition, the surgical approach used during your procedure, and the sport you plan to pursue.

Typically, athletes involved in noncontact sports can expect a quicker return to activity than those involved in football, soccer, and other collision sports.    

Follow your postsurgical instructions carefully

Following directions regarding postsurgical wound care, physical therapy, home exercises, and other instructions provided by Dr. Doherty is vital to your successful recovery from back surgery.

Skipping your physical therapy sessions, for instance, or pushing too hard through home exercises designed to progressively rebuild strength, flexibility, and mobility can stall your progress.  

Give it time

One of the reasons Dr. Doherty prefers minimally invasive, robot-assisted surgery is the quicker recovery time it offers compared to traditional “open” surgery. Even with robotic surgery, however, your recovery is a process.

Depending on the nature of your presurgical condition and individual rate of healing, it can take several weeks to months before you’re able to begin actively training for your sport. Expecting overnight success is unrealistic and can sabotage your overall efforts.

It’s also important to build your training program gradually over several weeks, as if you were just beginning the sport. This gives deconditioned muscles and joints some time to develop the strength, flexibility, and stamina required for sports activities.

Let your symptoms be your guide

Once you return to your sport, stop playing and call your surgeon if you experience sharp or persistent pain, which may indicate an injury that needs attention.

For an expert evaluation regarding back surgery and your planned return to sports, schedule a visit with Dr. Doherty at Yale Neurosurgery New London today. Call our office or request an appointment online.   

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