Seahawks’ Lockette Undergoes Surgery for Disk and Ligament Damage in His Neck

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Seattle Seahawks special teams player Ricardo Lockette had one of the scariest moments in any recent NFL game this Sunday when the 29-year-old sustained a violent high hit that rendered him briefly unconscious and without movement for approximately 10 minutes on the field. With thousands of fans fearing the worst, players from both teams crowding the field, and commentators trying to make sense of what had happened, everyone forgot about football for just a second. But thankfully, the situation wasn’t quite as dire as it could have been.

Neurological Signs All Positive

Upon waking up and realizing he was hurt, Lockette apparently had the presence of mind to keep still until medical staff could properly attend to him and immobilize his neck by putting him on a spine board. And though his injuries were indeed serious – including a concussion along with cervical ligament and disk damage that would require nearly six hours of surgery to repair – fears that he might be paralyzed were quickly put to rest. The popular athlete gave a “fist pump” to relieved friends and fans while being carted off the field, and the Seahawks’ camp later reported that he had “full motion and feeling in all extremities.” This was certainly the best news anyone could hope for.

What Comes Next

The question now is whether the fifth-year pro will ever play football again. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll immediately deemed Lockette’s injury a “season ender,” and refused to speculate on when or if No. 83 would return to the field next year. While the surgery to stabilize his neck was pronounced a success, the truth is that it’s hard to say with any certainly whether Lockette can make a full comeback – especially since details of his injury are still largely under wraps. But undoubtedly, the road to recovery will not be an easy one. That’s because a cervical spine injury is one of the most serious injuries that pro athletes can endure. Our recent blog on hockey injuries explains why these hits are so scary.

Wondering if you should seek medical attention for a back or neck injury? View our quick video on when to consult a doctor for back pain.

The fact that Lockette’s injury required immediate surgery indicates that he likely sustained a cervical ligament tear, along with perhaps a fractured or herniated intervertebral disk that caused spinal instability in his neck. Essentially, this is a severe case of whiplash, potentially requiring a microdiscectomy and fusion to remove the damaged portion of a disk and stabilize the part of the neck that supports the head and protects the spinal cord. Down the line, Lockette will require intensive physical therapy and possibly pain management injections as part of his rehabilitation. But it remains to be seen whether the extent of his injury and recovery will allow him to return to pro play in a sport where the hits are as brutal as they are in football.

A Source of Inspiration?

As he looks to his future, Ricardo Lockette has plenty to be thankful for – starting with the fact that he hasn’t sustained any paralysis from his injury. He also has a potential source of inspiration in Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, whose career many thought might be over following multiple neck surgeries. Peyton’s grueling road back to the gridiron wasn’t easy, and Lockette’s isn’t likely to be either. But you never know what might be in store for an athlete of such high caliber and promise as this one.

If you suffer from chronic neck pain, the Spine Health Institute can help. Our multidisciplinary medical team includes physical therapists, pain management specialists – and orthopaedic spine surgeon Dr. Chetan Patel, a world-renowned expert in minimally invasive spinal procedures. Contact our Patient Care Coordinator at Call407-303-5452 or click on the “Book Online” button at the top of this page.


Ricardo Lockette completes 5-plus-hour neck surgery in Dallas for disc repair, neurological signs “all positive” (11/02/2015). Retrieved from The News Tribune:

Seahawks’ Ricardo Lockette remains in Dallas after season-ending surgery to repair neck ligament, disc damage (11/02/2015). Retrieved from The Seattle Times:

Cervical Spine Ligament Injury (n.d.). Retrieved from UW

Cervical Spine Sprain/Strain Injuries (10/29/2013). Retrieved from

Neck Strain and Whiplash (n.d.). Retrieved from

The 20 Greatest Injury Comebacks in Sports History (01/02/2013). Retrieved from

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