Cervical disc injuries

Disc injuries can occur in any part of the spinal column, although they are most problematic in areas where a slipped disc is prone to pinching a nerve exiting the spine. The cervical spine (neck) is a region where this can unfortunately occur. Cervical disc injuries can lead to neck pain which radiates down one or both arms if a nerve is pinched. Generally the referred pain in the arm (along with weakness or numbness) is considered more serious than neck pain itself.

In football, players can often continue to play with a minor cervical disc injury, but in a case where a nerve is pinched then rest and even surgery may be required. Rest can help as the pain from slipped discs tends to resolve over time. The goal of surgery is to remove the prolapsed fragment whilst leaving as much of the other tissues alone (especially the spinal cord and nerves). For this type of neck injury, manipulative treatment is generally not recommended. An Xray guided cortisone injections may reduce the inflammed tissue around the nerve.

Luke Rooney of the Penrith Panthers suffered this injury and missed most of the 2007 season. Anthony Minichello, Roosters fullback spent a prolonged period away from NRL with a bulging disc in his neck. This injury also occurs in AFL. Melbourne captain, David Neitz was forced into early retirement after sustaining a ruptured disc in a round 5 match in 2008.
Cervical disc injury
Cervical Disc Injury
The disc (grey) slips backwards and pinches (red arrow) the spinal cord and nerve root exiting the cord (yellow).
(Image sourced from Primal Pictures)