Chicago Bulls down a Man Going Into the 2015 Season

Mike Dunleavy’s now out for at least 10 weeks leaving the Chicago Bulls at loose ends after the reliable shooter underwent back surgery. Given that the NBA preseason starts in just a few days, this is not a great time for the top-10 team to be without their recently re-signed small forward. If all goes well, Mike will be back on the active roster before the end of 2015.

Dunleavy had a microdiscectomy, a minimally invasive spine. Gone are the days of 6 to 18 inch incisions. A microdiscectomycan be performed through a 1 to 1 ½ inchopening. Fortunately for Dunleavy and the Bulls, the procedure has a success rate approaching 95%. On the down side, healing and rehab could take up to three months.

Typically performed for herniated lumbar discs, as well as to relieve leg pain, microdiscectomy is also effective for low back injuries that prompt back spasms. The spasms are protective in nature, but they take a person out of any activity, which in professional basketball, is a deal breaker.

During a microdiscectomy, the erector spinae (back muscles) are carefully moved aside. A small segment the interior of the facet joint is detached and removed. People use their facet joints every single day, and these joints are especially prone to injury or excessive wear in people who are extremely active, such as a professional athlete.

Removing a damaged section of the facet joint allows the spinal nerve more room to move and immediately relieves pressure. The surgeon will also remove any obvious debris caused by erosion of the disc sitting under the nerve. The result gives the impinged spinal nerve freedom from compression and more room to move during high torque back movements, or ongoing, repetitive lifting or bending.

Microdiscectomy is now an outpatient spine surgery and pain relief is usually immediate, but if the nerve in question has become irritated or highly inflamed, complete healing can take 10-12 weeks at least.

The biggest risk for the procedure failing lies not with the surgery itself, but arises when patients return to an active lifestyle without giving their bodies enough time to fully heal. Although this procedure is minimally invasive, it is still crucial to allow full time for recovery before returning to a physically active lifestyle.

We’re sure that Fred Hoiberg is anxious to take his place among the great Chicago Bulls coaches like Phil Jackson (and even the recently departed, Tom Thibodeau), but rushing Mike Dunleavy back to the court would be a bad idea—a bad idea for the Bulls and a bad idea for Mr. Dunleavy.

Get well soon, Mike!

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