Micah Hyde suffered an injury in Week 2’s win over the Tennessee Titans. He left the game with a neck injury and was later reported to have been evaluated at the hospital.
The angst began to build two days later when word circulated that he was seeking a second opinion.
Then, fear became reality the day before the Bills-Dolphins game, when it was announced that Hyde would miss the rest of the season to have an operation on a herniated disc in his neck.
Cervical injuries in contact sports are a tough pill to swallow. The proximity of the spinal cord in the neck region makes it very tricky to manage, with catastrophic consequences if mismanaged. If the reports of a cervical herniation are true, Micah is likely dealing with pressure on a nerve which is affecting the feeling and strength of his arm. In a worst-case scenario, pressure is put on the spinal cord itself.
Lumbar herniations are usually easier to deal with because there is more space available. These can get cleaned out with procedures such as a microdiscectomy. However, the neck is a crammed area and the gold standard for correction is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF).
In an ACDF, the disc is cleaned out and the two vertebrae that sandwich the area are connected with plates and screws. Over time, these two vertebrae meld into one unit, thus the term “fusion”. As a result, it provides relief and stability to the area. There is a long healing timeline though, as the average time to return to play is 9.5 months (1). Also, to note, the average career length after this procedure is only 3.2 years (1).
Micah Hyde should be able to return to form in 2023. He will likely be good to go when training camp rolls around in July 2023. However, Hyde’s career clock will be ticking, as adjacent segment pathology (2) can occur. This is the process when discs above and below the fusion wear out quickly due to added stress on them from the fused segments. Micah has one year left on his deal with a cap hit of $10 million ($7 million dead if cut). I would assume 2023 will be his swan song in Buffalo. Let’s hope for the best.
1. Watkins RG 4th, Chang D, Watkins RG 3rd. Return to Play After Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in Professional Athletes. Orthop J Sports Med. 2018 Jun 18; 6(6): 2325967118779672. doi: 10.1177/2325967118779672. PMID: 29977944; PMCID: PMC6024542.
2. Chung JY, Park JB, Seo HY, Kim SK. Adjacent Segment Pathology after Anterior Cervical Fusion. Asian Spine J. 2016 Jun; 10(3):582-92. doi: 10.4184/asj.2016.10.3.582. Epub 2016 Jun 16. PMID: 27340541; PMCID: PMC4917780.
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