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A Serious Spine Injury and An Inspiring Comeback

A spine injury is a scary thing. It can be devastating.

We often hear about traumatic injuries which leave people paralyzed. But not all injuries to the spine have such devastating consequences. This is a story about a serious spine injury…and an inspiring fight to recovery.

Football Injuries

If you’ve ever watched football you know the feeling. The feeling when a player is down and doesn’t get up. The feeling when you see the medical staff rushing to his side with a backboard. The feeling when you’re waiting to see the player move their leg, just to know they still can.

As a spectator I know that feeling. I can only imagine how much more difficult that moment is for the players. Or for the player on the ground.

Ryan Shazier’s Monday Night Football Injury

That was the scene on December 4, 2017 as the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. It was early in the first quarter of the game and linebacker Ryan Shazier had just hit Cincinnati receiver Josh Malone.

Nothing looked out of the ordinary until Shazier reached for his back in what appeared to be pain. He then rolled over and waved his arms but his legs lay, motionless. As the doctors crowded around and assessed the situation, the announcers waited for some movement from his legs. None came.

Comeback from a serious spine injury - ryan shazier

Ryan Shazier at Training Camp in 2014 (Photo Courtesy of David Schellhaas, via Wikimedia Commons)

After being secured on the backboard, Shazier was carted away on the medical cart, hands over his face.

Learn about the spine anatomy and why a spine injury can be so dangerous.

A Serious Spine Injury

The Pittsburgh Steelers and doctors from both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh released updates over the next few days about Ryan’s condition. There weren’t too many specifics but it was clear that Ryan Shazier had sustained a serious spine injury. On the night of December 6th doctors performed spine stabilization surgery.

See Also: Did you know these celebrities have undergone spine surgery?

The Road to Recovery

In early January everyone finally got confirmation that Ryan regained feeling in his legs. During a media interview Ryan’s father, Vernon Shazier, talked about the tragic injury and how their family was dealing with it. He confirmed that Ryan could again feel his legs but said that the rest of his progress would be kept private.

On January 10, 2018, just over a month from the injury, Ryan Shazier returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers practice gym, in a wheelchair.

Shazier was undergoing rehabilitation and a training of his own. In early February Ryan confirmed on social media that he was walking, with assistance from others or a walker.

Over the next few months Ryan Shazier made appearances throughout Pittsburgh, the NFL community and on a podcast. Throughout each of those the message was clear. The road to recovery from a spine injury can be tough, but Ryan Shazier is tougher.

Read about other professional athletes who’ve recovered from spine surgery and continued to play sports professionally.

A Fighting Spirit

On August 3, 2018, 8 months after his initial spine injury, Ryan Shazier slowly and methodically walked across a football field, on his own.

And, on December 6, 2018, almost exactly one year after Ryan Shazier last ran out onto an NFL football field, he posted a video on social media of himself weightlifting. With the look of focus and sheer determination on his face (as well as a trainer by his side) Ryan Shazier continues his recovery from a devastating injury.



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery