Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: August 16, 2016
A disc herniation has forced Prince Fielder, one of the more dominant power hitters of the late 2000’s, to hang up his baseball cleats at the young age of 32.
According to a report by Fox Sports, Fielder’s spine is in such rough shape that he is considered medically disabled and doctors did not clear him to return to the field. A saddened Fielder held a press conference last Wednesday to announce that he is medically unfit to continue his career.
“The doctors told me…I can’t play major league baseball anymore,” said Fielder. “It just kind of sucks, because I felt like it’s been taken away from them a little too early.”
History of Herniations
Fielder has been plagued by a bad back in the later stages of his career. He first dealt with a herniated disc back in May of 2014. He was limited to 42 games that season before he went under the knife to address the damaged disc. He had a bounce back year in 2015, emerging as a potential league MVP candidate before trailing off after the All-Star Break. He still finished with an impressive .305 batting average, the second highest mark of his career, and 23 home runs, so the Rangers were optimistic that the injury was fully behind Fielder entering 2016. But it was clear from the start that something just wasn’t right with his back, as Fielder struggled mightily in 2016, posting a .212 average through 89 games. He said he had been dealing with back pain for some time, but it eventually worsened to the point that he needed medical intervention.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the fusion on the initial disc has put pressure on the adjacent discs, compromising a larger portion of his spine.
“The way it has been described to me is that a fused vertebrae puts added stress above and below,” said Daniels. “The initial fusion he had is still intact. The new herniation surfaced above it.”
MRI & Second Opinion
Fielder underwent an MRI in Los Angeles by Dr. Robert Watkins, who recommended that he undergo surgery. He later sought a second opinion from Dr. Drew Dossett, who performed Fielder’s first surgery two years ago. It sounds as if Fielder will undergo a second surgery to address the herniation, but if he undergoes a second fusion, it seems unlikely that he would be able to continue to swing a bat thousands of times a year without further jeopardizing the integrity of his spine. He should have no problem returning to everyday activities after this second surgery, but I’m not surprised that baseball at the highest level is out of the question.
Fielder will not announce his retirement, however, because doing so would require him to forfeit a larger portion of the more than $100 million remaining on his contract with the Texas Rangers. He’ll be able to collect more money, similar to workers’ compensation for average workers, by proving that a medical condition has left him unable to continue playing.