Mets Captain David Wright’s Game Plan for Beating Spinal Stenosis
Advocacy The all-star’s spinal stenosis hasn’t struck out his drive to overcome pain.
Six-time National League All-Star and New York Met David Wright is used to playing through pain, even a fractured vertebrae. But during rehabilitation for a hamstring strain last spring, his back pain led to the diagnoses of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the open spaces within the spine.
“I had never heard of it,” the Mets third baseman recalls. “When the doctor called, he said ‘do yourself a favor and don’t Google it,’ and of course the first thing I did was that.”
“I feel if I tell the medical staff when I have a bad day, as much as it hurts my pride, it might save me from missing more time.”
Spinal stenosis puts pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel to the spine, arms and legs. “I was nervous and scared,” he says, realizing it could be career ending. “But I am fortunate to have some of the best doctors and therapists along with our medical staff, who helped me get back playing” says Wright.
Wright’s symptoms range from manageable stiffness to sharp pain that limits activity. His rehabilitation homework in the beginning was to see how long he could walk without sitting down. “I’m learning to rank the discomfort. You are going to have good days and bad days, and the majority are somewhere in between. But with therapy, I can turn more of the okay days into better days.” There are times he has to concede the need to rest.
His fastidious core-strengthening regimen helps him avoid surgery by keeping the muscles around his spine strong. “It is what I do daily before my day starts,” he says, adding he has a physical therapy routine before game time, too. “I think for me, one of the biggest things is being honest with how I feel. As an athlete, I’m used to playing through the pain. But I feel if I tell the medical staff when I have a bad day, as much as it hurts my pride, it might save me from missing more time. I only missed one game I was supposed to play and I’ll take that as a positive.”