NBA players will be returning the training camp again, and many people agree that the Golden State Warriors will be the most competitive, if not the best team in the league. Their dominance has been led by head coach and former player Steve Kerr. Kerr has been on and off the sideline during the previous few years, often too injured to coach his team for weeks at a time.
How Herniations Occur
Kerr’s absences are a result of back surgery gone bad. His journey gives a high profile face to the trauma and long road to recovery that many people with back and spine injuries face.
Kerr, a lean, athletic looking man, underwent surgery for a ruptured disc in 2015. The spinal cord is made up of a series of bony structures. Gel-filled sacs, or discs, are between these bones and prevent them from rubbing against each other. The series of bone-disc-bone-disc on top of each other is what allows the spine to be flexible.
Sometimes, whether due to acute trauma such as in a car accident, or due to long term repeated stress, such as with an athlete or someone working in a physical job, those discs can rupture, and the gel inside of them may push the disc out, causing pressure on adjacent nerves.
In some cases, the gel itself may leak out of the disc, also causing pain as it crowds the space intended for the spine and nerves. Herniation not only causes pain, but can cause numbness or tingling in extremities, loss of bladder control, and in severe cases, can impair the ability to use limbs.
Like all surgeries, back surgery carries risks, but not as many as the public is lead to believe in news reports. There are studies that show that for patients with severe, chronic pain, surgery produces a better outcome than non-surgical procedures, and even the best surgeons still recommend trying conservative therapy first.
Kerr’s Difficult Surgical Complications
After his first back surgery, Kerr actually did not have continued back problems, but had severe headaches and dizziness. Often it would feel like he had a days-long migraine. It turned out that he had been suffering from a cerebrospinal fluid leak as a result of a mishap in his surgery which nicked the membrane that houses the fluid.
Cerebrospinal fluid surrounds and protects the brain and spine, but with trauma, it can leak and cause incredible pain. The membrane is very fragile, and can be easily torn. In fact, one in 20 back surgeries do have the complication of leaking cerebrospinal fluid.
He underwent a second surgery to deal with the problem. That surgery was unsuccessful in fixing the leak, and Kerr had to undergo yet another, third surgery to correct the problem.
He says he is ready to coach this upcoming season, but it remains to be seen how he will hold up.
Time is Needed to Determine Recovery
Kerr’s problem did not start with a trauma like a car accident or a fall, but the injury is similar to that which victims in these kinds of accidents sustain. Likewise, his recovery and problems healing are also similar to that of many accident victims.
As you can imagine, none of this happens quickly. The process of therapy, non-surgical procedures, followed by surgery if needed, followed by seeing how a victim recovers, followed by followup surgeries if they are needed, can take years. One person may recover completely after seven months of massage while others, like Kerr, will need multiple followup surgeries.
This is why it is so important that victims seek medical treatment after an accident, and why injury attorneys must be patient before taking quick settlements from insurance companies. Injured, out of work, and frustrated, it may be tempting for victims to take whatever an insurance company is offering. But a victim does not know if he or she will end up like Kerr, with multiple surgeries spanning many years.
A victim who takes a quick settlement before knowing what his or her medical outcome will be may end up forever barred from recovering the full value of his or her injuries.
Defendants Will Argue Against Causation and Severity
Back injuries can be difficult cases in court, making it all the more important that victims seek treatment, make their medical appointments, and accept the course of treatment that may be recommended by doctors.
Defendants will often argue that people recover just fine from back injuries, and some in fact do. If your back injury has not healed, you will need to show a jury that you have done everything doctors asked of you, and waited a reasonable amount of time to recover.
Because disc injuries can be caused both by an accident was well as a lifetime of activities, defendants often like to argue that a disc herniation or rupture is not caused by the accident. They will try to blame it on a victim’s lifetime of playing sports, or physical activity, or simply a victim’s advanced age or increased weight—all factors that can lead to ruptured discs especially later in life.
Expert medical testimony will be needed not just to show your injury, but to try to determine whether it was the result of your accident or something beforehand. Ruptured discs do not have a time stamp on them that tells us that they ruptured last week in the car accident or 25 years ago when a victim worked as a construction worker. Doctors will testify whether or not there are signs of aging around the disc, trying to prove that the injury is a result of the accident.
Steve Kerr is a reminder that no two cases are the same—medical or legal ones. It is up to your attorneys to dispel that notion in a jury’s mind, and inform them about how complications can arise from even what we today consider to be “routine” medical procedures.
An injury case can last a long time. Make sure you have attorneys that can help you through the whole thing. Contact Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation to discuss your injury case.