Re: Arian Foster (season ending back surgery)
There was a Northwestern study published in the March issue of the Journal of American Sports Medicine that examined records of NFL OL and DL, who had herniated disc surgery during their active careers over a 2 decade period (~1990-2010) that were publicly available.......in order to determine their career outcomes, They found a total of 52. Not only did 80 percent of these particular players return to the game, they also played an average of 33 games during three years after the surgery. About half of them attained starter position. When you look at these surprisingly encouraging number, you must keep in mind that the 52 number was for those known to the public through the media and the stats through the NFL. The specific surgery and pathology in most cases were not available to assess "minor" vs "major"........and, we all know that public information released by the teams many times is of dubious accuracy. As we also know, NFL players have surgeries that are never made public. Not only that, but you need to ask yourself how many NFL players have had back issues, retired and THEN had surgeries, instead of opting to try continuting their careers through surgery. These latter players would not be counted in these stats and would likely add significantly to the "poor outcome" category.
There are no other studies I am aware of NFL players (including RBs) undergoing back surgeries. With this said, yes, OL and DL put great amounts of strain on their backs, but they do not typically sustain this strain under high impact situations from not only head-on, but also from the sides as is the case with RBs. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon that after one level of disc problems are demonstrated, other levels being affected may be not far behind. As disc problems may commonly be the result of compensation for other injuries, even if this episode of Foster's disc problem is surgically corrected, with his recurrent history of significant lower extremity injuries (and these are likely to continue to recur) , I would be very guarded about his long-term prognosis as a RB.