Tackled for a Loss

Decompression therapy sacks football official’s agonizing back pain.

Troy Riley is a natural athlete. At age 8, he began playing, and succeeding, at multiple sports, including football, basketball and baseball. When he got older, he concentrated his energies on football. Ultimately, he excelled on the field for his high school and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. 

Spinal decompression enabled Troy to officiate the 2021 college football season virtually pain free.

Spinal decompression enabled Troy to officiate the 2021 college football season virtually pain free.

“In high school, I was a quarterback and wide receiver,” Troy says. “In college, I played a little quarterback but mostly tight end. I’m still involved with college football. I’m an official for the Atlantic Coast Conference. I just finished my ninth year.”

There are eight officials working a college football game; Troy is an umpire. In that capacity, he stands behind the defense and watches the snap of the football. He also scans the players on the offensive line, looking for holding infractions and blocking penalties.

“Umpires monitor the flow of the game,” Troy elaborates. “If we see a lot of penalties, that slows down the game. If we don’t see many penalties and we let the guys play, the game moves faster and everybody has a good time.” 

The repeated physical contact, and the running and pounding associated with playing football for many years, took a tremendous toll on Troy’s body. Even as an official, the 51-year-old still receives many bumps and bruises during a game. 

“As an umpire, I’m right in the midst of the action,” he details. “There are players flying around me all the time and occasionally they hit me, sometimes inadvertently and sometimes on purpose. I’ve taken a few shots that required medical attention.”

During his playing days, Troy sustained a severe knee injury and problematic neck injury that caused significant pain and disability. But neither issue compared to the agony he experienced from repeated trauma to his low back endured while playing and officiating.

“I suffered damage to my lumbar spine, which led to pain in my sciatic nerve,” Troy describes. “The pain shot from the bottom of my buttocks all the way down to the middle of my leg. It was a really sharp pain that ranged anywhere from a four to an eight or nine on a scale of one to 10.

“My back condition was pretty uncomfortable. At one point, it was so painful that I walked hunched over or with a limp. Once, I actually had to remove myself from a game because of the pain. It didn’t stop me from doing my activities for the most part, but it definitely made me stop and stretch in between activities.”

Seeking an end to his discomfort, Troy consulted a physician. The doctor suggested he visit a chiropractor because chiropractors have unique techniques to help mitigate back pain. The physician recommended Marc Rogers, DC, at Disc Centers of America-Largo.

“Troy came to us just before the start of the 2021football season,” Dr. Rogers recalls. “To be an official, Troy has to be in top physical condition. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to perform his duties due to severe low back pain that radiated down his leg. 

“We performed an evaluation and determined that Troy had herniated discs in his lumbar spine that were compressing his nerves and causing pain. We recommended a therapy we offer at our practice called spinal decompression.”

Effective Approach 

Spinal decompression, which can be performed on the neck and back, was developed about 30 years ago by a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon. Studies by the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University demonstrate its effectiveness as a conservative approach to relieving back and neck pain.

“Almost all chronic back and neck pain is caused by issues with the spinal discs,” Dr. Rogers asserts. “In my office we say, All roads lead to the discs. Spinal decompression works by gently stretching the spine, opening up the disc space and easing compression on the nerves.” 

During a spinal decompression treatment, patients lie face up on a comfortable, computer-controlled table.

“We tell the computer exactly which discs to focus on, and the table very slowly, very gently pulls open the spine. This creates a negative pressure, which causes the part of the disc that’s bulging to move off of the nerves, relieving the pain,” Dr. Rogers explains.  “Opening the spine also brings water and nutrients back into the disc space so the disc can heal.”

A typical course of spinal decompression therapy at Disc Centers of America-Largo consists of 24 sessions twice a week over 10 weeks. The protocol also includes cold laser therapy to decrease inflammation, massage and McKenzie Extension Exercises, which were developed by a physical therapist with expertise in disc problems and low back pain.

“Spinal decompression has a 90 to 95 percent success rate, so the results are typically fantastic,” Dr. Rogers lauds. “Other options for treating back and neck pain, such as pain pills, anti inflammatory medications, cortisone injections and nerve burning, have limited long-term success. And surgery has been shown to be less than 50 percent successful over the long term.

“Spinal decompression is also 100 percent safe. It is very gentle and very controlled. It will not harm the patient. In fact, most patients fall asleep during their treatments.”

According to Dr. Rogers, spinal decompression is used all over the world – and widely in football. 

“Almost all NFL teams and players are taking advantage of it because football is such a rough sport on the spine,” he contends. “It was highly effective for Troy. We were able to get him back to work without injections or surgery. Spinal decompression enabled him to officiate the college football season virtually pain-free for the first time in years.”

“No Pain at All”

Like many patients receiving spinal decompression therapy, Troy experienced a reduction in pain after just a few treatments. Dr. Rogers emphasized, however, that patients must complete the full course of 24 sessions to reap the therapy’s full benefits. Troy gladly complied. 

“I noticed a difference in my pain level right away, between the third and fourth treatments,” Troy enthuses. “The pressure was taken off of the nerves in my spine and the sciatic pain went away.

“Now, I have no pain at all in my back. There’s zero pain. Some mornings I’m a little sore but that could be from working out or another activity. All I know is that the sciatic nerve pain is gone.”

In his 9-to-5 life, Troy works as a cyber security consultant. While that job is exciting, it’s not as physically demanding as his weekend job as a football official. And thanks to spinal decompression, Troy enjoyed a pain-free football season in 2021. 

“It was a good season for me,” he relates. “Every week I worked a game, and one week I worked two. I finished the season officiating the Liberty Bowl between Mississippi State and Texas Tech. Texas Tech won, 34-7. 

“It was a good game even though it was a blowout. The environment at the game was good, just as it is at Disc Centers of America-Largo. I highly recommend them.” 

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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