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Patient Stories

Rising Above the Rim: A Full Return for an Athlete with Back Pain

A rising star on the Iona College basketball team, Alejo Rodriguez refused to be sidelined by crippling back pain.

Team physician and HSS surgeon Riley Williams, MD, referred Mr. Rodriguez to Bernard A. Rawlins, MD, who identified the source of the pain. Mr. Rodriguez was suffering from spondylolysis – stress in one of his vertebrae.

Dr. Rawlins performed spinal fusion surgery, using a bone graft and a metal implant to stabilize the spine. Following the procedure, Mr. Rodriguez followed a strict rehabilitation regimen, working closely with trainers and coaches to build up the strength in his back. His determination paid off this season, when he returned to the game, playing at the level that he had been before the surgery.

“I wanted to do everything I could to continue playing,” he says. “I am so thankful that Dr. Rawlins got me back on the court.”

Alejo is not alone. The spirit of competition calls for a quick, full return to play. Dr. Rawlins takes this issue to heart; his current research is in gene therapy to promote bone healing.

“Ultimately, we hope that this research will allow patients undergoing spine surgery to require less surgery, with less postoperative pain and a quicker return to recreational activities,” he says.

Alejo Rodriguez