Walsh contemplates long wait, says spine expert

However, he added: “The earliest one could possibly devote to elite sport would be no less than three months as there are instances in the States where elite athletes have attempted to return to the sport three months ago and this has ended with the recurrence of the herniated disc, etc.


“So I would say that there is potentially some latitude for an athlete after a microdiscectomy to be able to return to sport in four to six months. This too depends on each individual.”

Walsh is only 22, but while Vellore said microdiscectomy isn’t very common for someone in their 20s, it does happen and being an athlete can be a risk factor.

“We see them in people of all ages, even in their 20s,” Vellore said, “… [and] If you look at the literature there is a prevalence of about up to 60 percent of athletes having a herniated disc, whether they all end up becoming symptomatic or needing surgery is another question.”

Vellore added that herniated discs have a chance of recurrence, among other things, with a 5 to 10 percent chance within the first year.

“However, the thing about athletes isn’t the same as the general population,” he said, because they “have added shear and compressive forces on their spine when they train and compete.”

“It’s going to be a little different for someone who’s a little more sedentary. So the risk of recurrence might be slightly higher, [but] There’s not a lot of data when it comes to athletes and discectomies.”

Carlton ruled out Walsh earlier in the season and will assess the timing of his potential return after the first month, in a major blow to the club’s finals aspirations.

Walsh missed the final home-away game of 2022 due to back problems and watched the Blues lose to Collingwood by a point and fall out of the top eight.


The club had hoped Walsh would recover in peace, but after consulting specialists decided surgery was necessary.

Carlton’s football manager Brad Lloyd said Walsh is recovering and that his rehab would begin in the new year, but stressed the long-term nature of the process.

“Over the past few months, our top priority has been Sam’s well-being in managing this issue, which is why we have evaluated every possible conservative treatment option,” Lloyd said.

“After this extensive trial, it was clear that surgery was the required option to correct the problem as all alternative treatments had failed to advance his recovery.

“Due to the long-term nature of this rehabilitation, it is not possible at this time to confirm a firm date for his return.

“Once the opening month of the season wraps up, we expect to be able to provide more clarity on his expected return to the game.”

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/afl/walsh-looking-at-lengthy-wait-says-spine-expert-20221227-p5c8ws.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Walsh contemplates long wait, says spine expert

Ryan Sederquist

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