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Florida State LB Vince Williams Out for 2009 Season

Early reports indicate that the back injury that has been nagging Sophomore linebacker Vince Williams out of spring and summer practices has now officially sidelined him for the 2009 season. Reports indicate that Williams will require surgery to repair the bulging disc in his lower spine that has been causing him problems all spring.

During his Freshman year, Vince Williams a 6'0" 245lbs LB out of Davenport Florida, played in 12 games ad was second among true freshman with 10 total tackles. Williams was ranked the 40th LB in the 2008 recruiting class by and the 10th overall LB by and was only one of three early enrollees in the 2008 class. Clearly, his time paid off as his played in every single game except the Miami game. We were lucky to sign Williams as he was considering LSU, Ohio State and UF.

Here is a nice piece about Williams at Here is a recent interview with Williams from the other site.

Apparently Williams has a herniated disc in his back that is continuing to cause him significant pain and limiting his abilities. The problem with herniated discs is that they cause significant pain and can cause nerve compression, which can lead to numbness, tingling and weakness in the area of the body that the specific body serves, or innervates.

Your spine is divided into five major segments: cervical (you neck), thoracic (your chest), lumbar (your lower back) and sacral (the part of your spine that joins with your hips) and your coccyx (your tailbone). A common location for back injuries is your lumbar spine as it is an area that is subjected to significant stresses and loads.

The anatomy of your spine is quite complex with multiple bone articulations (joints), ligamets, muscles, nerves, blood vessels and discs. The discs serve as the cushioning between your individual vertebrae (bones). The discs are basically fibrous pads that are filled with a jelly like substance that fills the middle (the nucleus).In between each vertebrae is a nerve root that leaves your spinal cord, one one each side.

Here is a cartoon of a normal spine:

Image from here.

This shows a better image of the complexity of the vertebral join and how your spinal cord runs through the vertebrae and how each nerve exits through the foramen (holes) between the vertebrae:

Over time, that intervertebral disc can herniate (project) into the space that is occupied by the nerve. This causes nerve compression, resulting in pain, burning and weakness. Unfortunately for Vince, he has a disc that has herniated and has not been managed by conservative therapy, meaning rest, exercises and a bit of time.

Here is an image of a herniated disc:

Image from here.

These images are looking straight down on top of the vertebral body and demonstrate the variety of disc herniations that can occur.

Here is another image to give you a sense of what is happening:

Image from here.


As you can imagine, any movement that involves twisting or bending is going to worsen any symptoms caused by the compression of the nerve. You are applying more pressure on the nerve root.

Typically, a herniated disc can be diagnosed by history and a good physical exam. However, MRI is commonly being used to look at the extent of herniation and to plan for surgery. Here is an example of an MRI:

Image from here.

In the image above, the authors (not me) have nicely highlighted the disc that is herniated. In this image, the patient is facing the left and this is the lowest part of the spine, but one of the most common locations for a bulging disc. Look at the discs above the one that is highlighted. For the most part everything looks nice and smooth. There is one disc further up that is starting to herniate, so this is not a perfect image.

 The typical surgery for this type of injury is a microdiscectomy, during which a small incision is made in the back and with the use of a microscope the part of the disc that is compressing the nerves is removed. Most patients only stay one night in the hospital after the procedure. Most patients, 80-95% return to full function after this procedure. So if things go well and Vince has relief of his symptoms, we should hopefully see him back on the field next fall.

There are a variety of other procedures that are available for treating this kind of problem, however I will spare you the details.

We all wish that Vince has a successful surgery without complication and a speedy recovery.

The medical information provided here is simply for discussion and to share basic knowledge with the readers of Tomahawk Nation. If you have any medical questions or concerns, you should contact your primary medical doctor. These articles are not intended to replace the opinions and decisions of a medical professional.