At a Glance –
Player: Chris Carson
Position: Running Back
Team: Seattle Seahawks
Injury: Unspecified neck injury with subsequent surgery
Projected Recovery Time: 16-24 weeks
The Seattle Seahawks have had a disappointing season in 2021, largely at the hand of injuries. Though Russell Wilson has finally returned to the field after having finger surgery, the Seahawks are missing another piece on their offense: Chris Carson. Carson is an excellent running back whose absence has been felt deeply on the team, and though there were hopes he could return during Week 10, he was reinstated on IR this past week with confirmation that he will be undergoing surgery. Carson will not be ready to return until the 2022 season.
Though the specifics have not been disclosed on the nature of Carson’s injury, it is likely that his issue involves the disc in the cervical spine. Intervertebral discs separate vertebrae (bones) in the neck and back, and they provide cushioning and shock absorption to the structures around them. Sharp turns or compressive forces, as well as age, can lead to a disc becoming herniated, which means the disc juts out. If the disc protrudes in a certain direction, it may compress a spinal nerve which can be painful and lead to both muscle and sensory symptoms. People often complain of numbness, tingling, and weakness that travels down their leg or arm. Herniated discs can cause symptoms that limit a person’s ability to function, and when symptoms are severe enough that the person does not respond to conservative treatment, surgery is warranted. Carson’s pain levels and disability caused him to fall into this category. Although it was not disclosed just what type of surgery he had to address this issue, he likely underwent a discectomy, in which the part of the disc that is causing his symptoms is removed. Physical therapy will be key to help him return next season. Herniated discs are an injury that physical therapists treat very often, even if a person does get surgery. For herniation of discs in the cervical spine, as is the case with Hunter, focus of treatment is on building strength in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Discs often become damaged due to instability from muscle weakness, and strengthening key muscle groups helps with injury prevention. The hits that are part of football can easily re-aggravate Carson’s pain so he will work closely with his rehab team to build that stability up. Endurance is equally as important for Carson as he has to play the full 60 minutes, and there are specific exercises we have up our sleeves to help. A basic exercise Carson will do is a chin tuck, which looks kind of like a double chin but requires use of muscles that are essential for neck stability, and his program will incorporate exercises that require Carson to hold that position to build up endurance and stability. He will be able to start game-like exercises at about 16 weeks post-op and will have plenty of time to get ready for OTAs in the spring. Though the Seahawks may not be doing too hot this year, they have the return of their star RB to look forward to during the off-season.
To see a few exercises that would be included in a PT program for post-neck surgery, view this video: