Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peyton Manning's Fusion Has Healed, But How's That Nerve Regenerating?

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts got the good news they were hoping for when Manning's neurosurgeon announced today that the quarterback's cervical vertebrae had completely fused.  This basically means that his neck is now stable enough to begin more strenuous workouts such as throwing.

What this does NOT mean is that Peyton is healed.  Let's review:

  • Peyton's surgery in September was needed because Peyton had pain in his neck that resulted from workouts.  Peyton had already been having problems throwing because nerve damage in his neck caused weakness in his throwing arm.  
  • The surgery accomplished two things: it removed the damaged disc and then fused the two vertebrae between that damaged disc to limit movement (and protect the spinal cord).
  • Roughly 12 weeks after the initial surgery, the fusion between the two cervical vertebrae has fused.
  • This does NOT mean that the original nerve injury has healed.  Nerve regeneration/healing can take weeks to months or never happen.  Peyton is the one that will deliver news about whether or not he can feel that the strength is back in his arm.  He may not really be able to tell for a few weeks as his workouts ramp up.
  • For more info, see my earlier post: Peyton Manning's Recovery Depends Totally On Nerve Regeneration Following Fusion Surgery
Hopefully Peyton will reveal more info tomorrow about where he's at in his rehab.  He's currently on schedule for the recovery that doctors thought he'd have, but there's no real timetable for his nerve to heal.


Susan M. said...

Has ANYONE heard any information as to which level or levels were fused? Whether he has ONLY a bone graft? Did they use his bone or cadaver bone? Were metal plates/screws used? ALL of these factors play a role in whether or not he will ever be able to play me on this...I'm fused at C 4-5, C 5-6 and C 6-7. All of these different levels govern different nerves...and also affect range of motion both back and forth and side to side. Needless to say, depending on WHERE the fusion is, his ability to turn his head from side to side, particularly with a helmet on, could be severely limited.

Jules said...

Great comments. From what we know, the nerve that innervates Peyton's triceps muscle in his throwing arm is the one that was affected. This was reported in the LA Times, and linked to on my post entitled "Peyton Manning's Recovery Depends Totally On Nerve Regeneration Following Fusion Surgery." With his triceps being affected, the likely spot for his cervical injury is at C6-C7, which is where that nerve root emerges. Otherwise, you're right, I don't think anyone has identified it.

As far as the hardware used, no one has reported for sure that he had a plate/screws. Unless Peyton releases that info himself, no doctor is gonna tell us. I'm assuming he did because I believe hardware would provide faster and more complete healing (then again, i'm not an orthopedic surgeon).
I'm quite certain they used some sort of bone graft, as I doubt he would have healed by now if he hadn't. Whether he got the bone from his own body or a cadaver bank doesn't matter. It will heal the same.

Ultimately, though, Peyton doesn't get back on the field unless his damaged nerve to his throwing arm regenerates, and if he never plays again, that will be the reason why.