Giants' DE Jason Pierre-Paul's return from back surgery (a microdisectomy to be exact) on time this summer had everyone thinking that JPP is back and all is well in Giantland. But appearances can be deceiving.
Don't get us wrong. JPP is still No. 90 on the New York Giants. He still has the swagger and attitude he had in 2011, when he recorded 16.5 sacks and was named to the NFL All-Pro team. He is still his old ebullient self.
However, he is not the same player between the lines anymore and the fear and/or reality is, he may never regain his Pro Bowl form.
JPP has been going out there every week and giving it his all. The results have not been very favorable. He gets blocked out of plays. He doesn't get to ball carriers and QBs the way he used to. He's underproductive and it has become frustrating, although he won't admit it. Soon, he may have to come to grips with reality.
JPP has 27 total tackles this year and only 2 sacks. He does have a game-changing pick six INT that earned him an NFC DPOW three weeks ago.
Several weeks back, it looked like he was showing signs of breaking out, but he injured his shoulder to the extent where he missed the first game of his career last week.
"I was hot, yeah, I was hot but I hurt my shoulder. This season has been up and down for me. I’m not frustrated at it," JPP told reporters today. "At the end of the day I just have to get better and get healthy and come out and know what I can do best and that’s play football. For me not playing, it’s very frustrating but at the end of the day I’d rather get healthy than put myself in jeopardy out there if I’m out there and can’t perform at the level that I know I can perform. This season has been up and down for me but I can’t complain about that. The only think I can do now is just to get healthy and finish the season off."
That would be good for him and the Giants. JPP needs to get more football experience under his belt. His body is no longer going to allow him to do the things that once made him special. He will have to find another way.
JPP has not stopped the rhetoric, though. Before the Dallas game, he declared it would be a "blood war", then went out and recorded one tackle in the team's most critical game of the season.
That hasn't stop him from further predictions.
"When I come back next year, I don't think there's going to be a tackle in the league who can stop me," Pierre-Paul said after today's practice as per ESPN's Dan Graziano.
That would be a 180 degree change from this season, when just about every tackle he's faced has stopped him....
Here's what our own Craig Santucci, who under went a Microdiscectomy a few years back, had to say about treatment, recovery and life after the procedure.....
I know about this injury all too well. While I was fortunate to play college football I could never be compared to a professional athlete, yet…I had a very similar injury as the New York Giants, Pierre Paul. It’s an injury that changed my life dramatically.
Any injury to a professional athlete is a major concern and can disrupt a player’s career. A herniated disc is not a routine injury. As NFL players get bigger, stronger and faster some injuries, like ACL tears have become more common and less devastating. Diagnosis, surgery and rehab are much more concise and successful in todays sports medicine.
24-year old Pierre Paul was diagnosed with a disc injury, something he has dealt with for years. That means the discs in his back are already degenerative or compressed. Vertebral discs are the spinal column shock absorbers. The disc cushions the vertebral bones and allows the spine to twist and bend. JPP has shown his athleticism and flexibility on ESPN’s Sports Science which now makes me cringe because I am confident these type of actions lead to more irritation to the nerves that run along the spine.
The discs in your spine are made of two parts. A soft nucleus and a tough fibrous outer wall. The vertebral discs wear with age or can be damaged from traumatic injury or lifting something heavy. The disc wall weakens around the sensitive nerve fibers and if the soft nucleus pushes out it can press against the nerve root.
The pain is excruciating. The New York Giants will miss him greatly as he was one of the only shinning stars on the defensive unit.
Depending on where the disc is herniated(Cervical, Thoracic, Lunbar and Sacral) pain can radiate from the hip to the hamstring, down the leg to the foot or down one’s arm to the fingers tip. Nerve pain is unlike any other kind of pain and treatment comes at a cost. Rest and epidural shots, (which are no walk in the park) are only a temporary “anti inflammatory” solution.
The good news: At a time in the recent past back surgery meant you were shut down for a long time due to the “flaying” of your back. Rehab was crucial and nothing was guaranteed, especially for a professional athlete.
Today’s medicine allows patients to have spine and disc surgery through a small incision in the back and the procedure (Micro Discectomy) can be completed through a series of tubes allowing no cutting of the muscle. Instruments are used to remove degenerative or herniated portions of the disc nucleus. Depending on the size of the herniation will depend on how much disc will be removed.
The goal is to reduce pressure inside the disc, allow the nerve to breathe and to keep the spine stable.
The Bad News:
What most people don’t understand is once the inner disc pushes through the hard outer shell it never goes back in. After surgery, the pain is relieved because the nerve is no longer being pinched or pushed around; however, your other discs now must take the brunt of the load, causing a terrible amount of stress and pressure on the remaining healthy discs. So one might ask, how does a 275 pound defensive end crash into an offensive tackle, using his lower body for leverage and strength and not crumble due to having his disc compromised.
That type of trauma can eventually cause the remaining disc to squirt out or the rupture other discs.
In 2011, Fox News published a reported from Northwestern University about the likelihood of NFL lineman returning to the field after a spine procedure. Of the 66 players included in the study, 14 were treated non-surgically and 52 treated with surgery. Of those treated surgically, 42 (81 percent) returned to play in at least one game, although most played an average of 33 games over 3 years.
For me…running, biking and working out are a chore after having 85% of my disc(L5 S1) removed after years of running into guys bigger than me. Post Micro Discectomy becomes all about core strength…but it’s hard to accomplish anything when bone is hitting bone. Fusion may have worked for Peyton Manning after 3 neck surgeries; however, it’s not option for Jason Pierre Paul.
And in a smaller world where getting paid to play is not at stake, by choice…fusion is still no option for me either.