The Dallas Cowboys are BACK in the NFL playoffs after winning the NFC East for the first time since 2009! The team’s success hinges on the pro-bowl play of quarterback Tony Romo, who has battled back injuries over the past two seasons. DFW Spine Institute specialists tell you how Romo overcame his injuries and why he is poised to lead Dallas into the playoffs.
What happened to Romo?
During an October 27th matchup against the Washington Redskins, blitzing linebacker Keenan Robinson struck Romo in the lower back with his knee. Romo was later diagnosed with two transverse process fractures in his lumbar spine (lower back).
The transverse process is a small bone that projects outward from the side of each spinal bone (vertebrae). Transverse process fractures are generally the result of direct trauma to the area or violent twisting and side bending.
How was he able to get back on the field so fast?
The injury caused Romo to miss the Cowboys’ next game against the Cardinals, but he was back on the field the following week, leading the team to victory against the Jaguars in London. Although transverse process fractures can be painful, treatment is rarely surgical. This is because the transverse process provides relatively little structural support to the spine, compared to more critical vertebral bones and joints.
How will Romo’s injury affect the Cowboys in the playoffs?
Another shot to the back could re-aggravate Romo’s injury while the bones are still healing. Although this would certainly be painful, transverse process fractures rarely lead to compression of the spine or nerve roots, so there is no risk of permanent damage by playing. Romo’s quick return is a real testament to his toughness – this is only the fourth time in the last seven seasons Romo has missed a game because of an injury.
Was the fracture related to his spine surgery last year?
Romo missed the Cowboys’ final game last season when he decided to have minimally invasive spine surgery to remove a herniated disk in his back. It is important to realize that this season’s transverse process fractures are NOT related to last year’s surgery. In fact, Romo made an excellent recovery from his spine surgery and is playing at an MVP level!
Are similar surgeries performed at Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute?
Yes! ACGME fellowship-trained surgeons at Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute specialize in the type of procedure Romo had last year. Using a series of small tubes and miniature cameras, minimally invasive spine surgeons are able correct spine problems without the bleeding and muscle damage that prolongs recovery of traditional spine surgery. In Romo’s case, a microdiscectomy was performed to remove a small portion of an intervertebral disc that was exerting painful pressure on his spinal nerve.
How does Romo’s injury compare to spine injuries sustained by other NFL quarterbacks, like Cam Newton and Peyton Manning?
Coincidentally, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton recently suffered a transverse process fracture in a motor vehicle accident – the same spine injury as Tony Romo. Baylor Bears quarterback Bryce Petty also fractured two transverse processes earlier this season.
Peyton Manning’s spine injury involved his neck and is completely different. Manning required several operations to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves that power the muscles in his arm. Manning ultimately required a spinal fusion, but that didn’t stop him from breaking multiple NFL records upon his return.
Will Romo eventually need a spinal fusion like Peyton Manning?
There is no reason to believe that Romo will require a fusion surgery at this point. Most patients who have a microdiscectomy never require a fusion. In our next post, we will discuss the indications for spinal fusion and cover Peyton Manning’s surgeries in more detail.
Go Cowboys! – @MISInstitute