Nathan Horton’s attempt to recover from a degenerative back condition and resume his playing career isn’t going as planned.
Speaking for the first time on his condition, Horton said he can’t even do simple things.
“I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over,” Horton told The Columbus Dispatch. “I can’t run. I can’t play with my kids. To get in and out of the car, I’m like a 75-year-old man … so slow and stiff. I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime.”
Horton, 29, hasn’t played since April of last season. There is a solution to Horton’s back problems, but it would end his hockey career.
According to Aaron Portzline, surgery would include a three- or four-level spinal fusion with a titanium rod.
“I don’t want to have surgery, because of what that means,” Horton said. “I don’t want to live with this pain, but I don’t want to make that decision. It’s hard for me to say that, at 29 years old, I’m done. I mean, really? Done at 29?”
The former Panthers’ first-round pick (3rd overall in 2003) scored four goals and 18 points in 35 games last season, his first in Columbus after signing a seven-year, $37 million contract as a free agent.
“I’ve tried everything,” Horton said. “I’ve seen so many doctors. So many people think they can fix me and they’re so optimistic, and then I get optimistic, but then … nothing changes. It’s so frustrating. I’ve seen so many people with back issues play through this, and it’s a different thing, the pain. It controls everything.”
There are five vertebrae in the lumbar region. According to Horton, he would need to have at least three fused with a titanium rod.The titanium provides stability and support and a relatively pain-free existence.
“At some point soon, we’ve got to make the call,” he said of the surgical procedure.
In 626 career games with the Panthers, Bruins and Jackets, Horton has 202 goals and 420 points. He won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011.