National Football League
Manning chooses speedier recovery
National Football League

Manning chooses speedier recovery

Published Sep. 11, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning chose an aggressive, more painful surgical procedure to fuse the damaged cervical vertebrae in his neck, with the hope his recovery and return to football will be faster, has learned.

The rare procedure involved taking a chunk of bone from Manning’s hip to fuse the C2 the C3 vertebrae. The surgery is painful and invasive, so much so that most doctors choose a more conventional protocol that uses a cadaver bone to perform the fusion, doctors told

Manning’s aggressive procedure, theoretically, could cut his recover time from six months or more to as little as six to eight weeks, several doctors told

Several doctors told that 20 percent of post-surgical patients who use the hip bone for cervical fusion experience hip pain at the site of the bone extraction the rest of their lives. The cadaver disk procedure, however, likely would keep Manning sidelined the entire 2011 season.


The surgery — Manning’s third neck procedure in 19 months — was performed Thursday by the Los Angeles-based father-son team of doctors Robert Watkins III and Robert Watkins IV of the Watkins Spine group in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Manning, a four-time league Most Valuable Player, underwent surgery on May 23 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to repair a bulging disk in his neck. At that time, he was expected to have a six- to eight-week recovery period. But as Manning recovered, he continued to feel pain and weakness in his neck and upper back, as well as weakness in his triceps.

He did not make the trip to Houston on Sunday for the Colts’ season opener against the Texans at Reliant Stadium, ending his streak of 227 consecutive starts (including the playoffs). Indianapolis lured Kerry Collins out of retirement, and he will become the first Colts quarterback other than Manning to start a game since 1997.

The questions surrounding Manning’s recovery will be complicated by how quickly he pushes doctors to get him into football shape, and the reluctance of medical teams to allow the Colts star to lift weights or engage in rigorous exercise of any kind following such a radical surgery.


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