Prestige cervical disc replacement and grappling/MMA training—Anyone have experience?
A little background first, to set the stage:
I've been doing fighting and combat sports training since I was 6, so over 35 years at this point, including boxing, wrestling, submission grappling (jujutsu, catch wrestling, and others), and a number of different kicking/striking styles including Muay Thai and Shotokan Karate. Back about 20 years ago, when I was in the military, I sustained a few neck injuries from things like being hit by an M-1 tank while running around in combat during Operation Desert Storm. I've managed to keep in good shape nonetheless, and my martial arts training is what's probably delayed me needing surgery on my bum neck up until now.
But, age and wear catches up with the best of us, so I'm going to be getting a C-5/C-6 disc replacement at the VA using the Prestige artificial cervical disc from Metronic. I've been told by the doctors that afterwards I can kiss goodbye my participation in any sort of contact sports, particularly MMA and grappling. Doctors have been telling me that sort of thing for the past 20 years, because, well, they're doctors and any time you mention being punched in the head or choked out or getting your limbs cranked from jointlocks, they freak out. I also speak as someone who has a background as an EMT, combat emergency medic, and medical editor/researcher, so my knowledge and experience with this sort of thing is fairly extensive.
However, despite a fairly exhaustive search, I haven't been able to find any real, solid anecdotal accounts of other fighters/martial artists' experiences with returning to full activity after specifically getting the Prestige disc.
What I'm wondering is what sort of recovery time did it take to get back to any sort of training, much less full-on, just-short-of-competing training. I don't compete any longer, but I used to do underground NHB back when I was in the military (strictly illegal, of course), and I occasionally do submission grappling tournaments.
Also, if you did have a cervical disc replacement, whether with the Prestige or not, what real-world limitiations were there that have been encountered, if any?
Other than the neck issue, and a well-controlled lower back problem (as long as I stay active and in good condition), I'm in great physical shape (6-foot, 175 lbs, 10 percent bodyfat). Obviously, I'm going to be declining a bit from that due to recovery, but I've got the next two months to ramp it up a bit before I go under the neck-knife.
Any first-hand information from people who have had cervical disc replacements (especially with the Prestige) would be greatly appreciated, so I can get an idea of what sort of challenges I'm facing from folks who have a frame of reference that includes actual fighting/combat sports backgrounds.
P.S.: Please, don't tell me to go look up Tito Ortiz, I beg of you. I've seen everything there is to see on the Huntington Beach Bad Boy's bad neck, and it ain't much help!
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