Peyton Manning is considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time, but a herniated disc injury kept him from throwing a ball for just a few feet.

It was May 2011, after 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts when Manning went in for his first of two surgeries to correct his herniated disc. Manning went through an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion or an ACDF. The procedure accesses the cervical spine through the front of the neck. The surgeon removes the damaged disc, causing pain, and replaces it with a bone graft implant between two vertebrae- to help the bones permanently fuse together. 

That disc herniation ended up costing Manning his job with the Colts, and he went to work for the Broncos. Manning told the Washington Post about the weeks of recovery and rehab he went through — fighting to get back to normal. At 37-years-old, the NFL star had to relearn how to throw and eventually put him on a path to a second Super Bowl win in Super Bowl 50.

Herniated Discs

To understand a herniated disc, you have to understand a little bit about how the spine is constructed. The spine is made up of a bunch of vertebrae – separated into 3 portions of the spine. The Cervical Spine is all the vertebra in your neck, protecting your spinal cord. The Thoracic Spine is the middle of the back, and the Lumbar Spine is the lower end of your back. Most injuries are seen either in the Cervical or Lumbar spines.

Between each vertebra is a kind of “shock absorber”. It’s set up a lot like a jelly doughnut and is called a “disc”. If the spine sees trauma, from a car accident or even lifting something incorrectly, it can cause the disc to tear and the jelly-like inside squirts out and puts pressure on the nerve roots connected to the spine. The pain you feel is coming from the pressure on the nerves.

The Surgery

Sometimes a herniated disc can be treated with a smaller outpatient surgery like a laminectomy or a discectomy. The surgeon can go into the spine and only remove the portions of the disc that are putting pressure on the nerves, without having to fuse the vertebrae together. If the disc is too badly damaged, or other spine conditions are causing instability in the spine, a surgeon recommends a fusion. Manning’s herniated disc was in his neck – in between the c6 and c7 vertebrae. We did not treat Mr. Manning and have not evaluated him, so we cannot speak to the condition of his neck. It has been reported Manning went through an ACDF – a neck fusion procedure. If you are curious about back fusion surgeries, click here, or you can read about Tiger Woods’ back fusion surgery here.

A Smaller Incision

DISC of Louisiana’s surgeons perform the ACDF procedure – a minimally invasive approach to treating herniated discs. The incisions are no more than a couple inches and is done through a small tube. Unlike traditional “open” procedures, our surgeons use the latest imaging technology to see your spine without needing to cut into your muscle tissue. This ultimately leads to a shorter recovery period. It also allows you to maintain a broader range of motion – because your body experiences less trauma. If you are interested in learning more, you can fill out the “Request An Appointment” form at the bottom of this page or you can call our office at 985-400-5778 to make an appointment with one of our providers.