Spine Athlete ::: Merrill"s story

Foraminal stenosis

Diagnosis: Foraminal Stenosis

Treatment: Stabilization of the cervical spine from C4 through C7 with a cervical plate

Neurosurgeon: Robert Bohinski, MD, PhD

Initial injury: “I’d had a history of neck problems. I had a fusion at C5-6 with my first doctor when I was 32 years old. About seven or eight years later, I had a second fusion, at C6-7. I was told I had suffered an accident of some sort, some kind of trauma. I can’t pinpoint it specifically. I played a lot of sports when I was young. I was a high school swimmer, and I also did a lot of wrestling. I grew up with brothers, and there was not a day that we weren’t beating each other up.”

Turning point: “In 2010, when I was about 46 years old, it was all acting up again. My first fusion was very stable. But the second fusion was not. Not only did the joint fail to fuse, but the bone surface was deformed and unstable. I always knew something was wrong there. It didn’t feel secure. And when I started having problems again, the fusion that didn’t take was messing up the vertebra below as well. It was one deformed bone rubbing on another. This time I went to Mayfield and saw Dr. Bohinski. I told him, “I can’t go through this anymore.”

Being a spine athlete: “After my surgery, I lost function in my arm because the C5 nerve root had been pressed on for so long that it did not adjust immediately when it returned to its normal position. I began with physical therapy but wasn’t progressing the way I wanted. I come from a background as a swim coach and wrestling coach. I was into fitness, triathlons and running. I have a basement full of fitness equipment. I began dreaming of ways I could improve my therapy, and I began exercising in a unique and different way. I was unable to raise one of my arms to increase my strength, so I got on my hands and knees and began sliding dumbbell weights across the floor. I knew I could at least build the muscles around the injured area. And once that happened, it was amazing how quickly I started to see progress. Today I would say I’m 98 percent back. My one arm is a little stiffer than the other, but my strength is back and I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. What’s more, my cervical spine experience has brought a whole new venture to me. I learned a new way to exercise and made a new product (“The Finisher”), which has been adopted by a prominent Cincinnati orthopedic practice. I’m 50 and in a second career. It has been very rewarding.”

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Spine Athlete Story Disclaimer -"Merrill"s Story" is about one patient"s health-care experience. Please bear in mind that because every patient is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Results are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.


"I began dreaming of ways I could improve my therapy, and I began exercising in a unique and different way."