In football, we’re used to seeing blindside hits and torn ACLs that make you squeamish. But the L1 compression fracture that Tony Romo sustained against Seattle last Thursday? That was nasty.

“Compression fractures are a bit unusual in football,” Mavericks head physician Dr. T.O. Souryal said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “We usually see this kind of injury in car accidents and older people who have osteoporosis. A compression fracture has to do with the spine. It’s not a dangerous thing. People hear broken back and they’re thinking paralysis and all kinds of bad things. But the spine itself is made up of these building blocks and they’re kind of spongey, and when he was doubled over during that hit in the preseason game, one of the vertebral bodies was essentially squished like a marshmallow. That’s what a compression fracture is. It’s not a dangerous thing, but it really does hurt. I have to give him tremendous credit for wanting to come back.”

Romo, who has twice broken his collarbone, has had all sorts of injuries over the years, including a variety of back ailments. Souryal, however, said that Romo’s compression fracture is likely unrelated to any of his previous issues.

“I don’t think that this really had anything to do with his previous back surgeries,” he said. “I agree with you that it just piles up, but I think this would have happened if he had never had any back surgeries. It is not a natural position for the spine to flex that position, unless you’re a gymnast. The interesting thing about fractures is they heal pretty uneventfully. So I’m not worried about his future from a fracture-healing standpoint. What happens in pro football is the rest of the body takes a beating, and at the quarterback position, you are really vulnerable to this beating. He’s played a long time and he’s taken numerous hits. I will tell you: He’s one tough cookie to keep coming back.”

Romo, in fact, was initially expected to be out until midseason. Now the Cowboys are saying he could be practicing within two weeks and playing within six weeks.

Souryal doesn’t think that’s far-fetched.

“The thing about compression fractures is they’re stable fractures,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere. It’s just a matter of pain and pain tolerance. I alluded to the fact that he’s one tough cookie. I’m not surprised by the downgraded estimate.”


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