J.J. Watt is a star defensive end for the Houston Texans football team, but he spent most of last season on injured reserve after aggravating an old back injury during the third week of the season. He had back surgery in September of 2016 and spent the last year recovering, but now he’s back, and says, “I’m really starting to feel good out there and enjoying it.”
According to Watt, his rehabilitation has been a slow process that has taken a lot of work, but he says it has definitely paid off and he finally feels like himself on the field. Watt’s surgery repaired a herniated disc, and it was anticipated that it would take a long time for him to recover, but also that he would be able to successfully return to his previous level of activity and skill. That is exactly what seems to be happening.
Speaking of his play following the second week of the 2017-2018 season, Watt said, “The quickness and the eyes and everything, it’s starting to come back really well, and I think that as each game goes on, it’s going to come back even more and more. Obviously, there’s a couple plays I would like to finish a little bit better, but I think that overall I’m really starting to feel good out there and enjoying it. Especially the last game on Thursday night [Sept. 14], I felt like myself.”
The surgery that Mr. Watt had last year was a microdiscectomy. Its goal was to take the pressure off of nerves in his lumbar spine and eliminate the pain that he was enduring. Any material causing damage to the nerve root or spinal cord is carefully cleared away using a special microscope so that the surgeon could make a small incision and he could heal more quickly. In most cases, it is done on an outpatient basis and patients are able to go home within a few hours, then are instructed to engage in a gradual rehab program.
Prior to the surgery, a noted spine trauma surgeon from California who was not involved in Mr. Watt’s surgery had said that he anticipated a quick return. “In most cases, Mr. Watt’s included, patients are expected to make a complete recovery after surgery and typically resume their normal activities within a few weeks. Best of all, patients are pain free and many people report feeling better than they have in years after surgery. As for him being susceptible to additional back problems, since I do not know exactly what afflicts him, if he has a first disc herniation then he has a 10 to 15 percent chance that over the next five to ten years he may have further degeneration and need another procedure.”
J.J. Watt is enthusiastic about his future and enjoying being back on the playing field where he belongs. “I’m just enjoying it and loving it and having fun. I just enjoy being an athlete again and not having to worry about any of that.”