Courtney Furlong is incredibly excited to be back out on the volleyball floor. A junior at the University of South Carolina and a member of the Gamecocks elite team, Furlong was lifting weights during the offseason when she hurt her back.
“When I came up on the second squat, I felt my back pull,” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow, that doesn’t feel good.’ For a while it was just tight and I kept playing on it for a couple of weeks. I did some heat and electrical muscle stimulation with our athletic trainer, and I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal at first.”
Sadly, she underestimated the injury in a big way. She found herself unable to perform the most basic functions – even walking was hard.
“Getting out of bed was really tough. I couldn’t really do basic things. I would drive myself to class, and I would try to park as close as possible because it would take me around 20 minutes just to walk a few hundred feet.”
Unable to tolerate the pain and certain that she would not be able to return to her sport without intervention, she sought further diagnosis. Her physician ordered an MRI and immediately scheduled her for surgery after spotting a herniated disk, a condition which Furlong describes as “when the disk pops out and is hitting the nerve.” She remembers being in constant pain. “I was hunched over. I wasn’t sleeping because I couldn’t lay down. There was a two-week period where I would sleep sitting up in a chair.”
Her surgery took place just two months after her injury, but as far as Furlong was concerned, the surgery could not come soon enough. “I wanted to get rid of the pain,” she recalls, and that is exactly what she got.
“After surgery, I remember waking up and had no pain,” she says. “I started crying because it was so awesome. The next day I was walking around campus, and you wouldn’t have even known that I just had surgery.”
Though the young woman’s pain was gone, that did not mean that she was ready to get back into the game. As an elite athlete she needed to regain lost strength through rehabilitation that challenged her physically and emotionally. The work was hard and there was a fair amount of fear of re-injury. “The doctors told me that the risk of the disk re-herniating was rare, but of course from all of the constant jumping we do, my back is probably not what it should be for an average 20-year-old. I started passing without jumping by the end of June. I didn’t start playing fully until our pre-season in August. I think the coaches were a little bit shocked that I could do everything and didn’t need to sit out since I had just had back surgery a few months ago.”
Furlong is thrilled with the results of her surgery, and excited about moving forward without pain.