Neymar Unrealistic Possibility for Any Further World Cup Play

Spine Surgeon Dr. Arien Smith Explains the Brazilian Star’s Injury

l3-lumbarThe good news is that Brazil’s young “soccer god”, Neymar, will recover following a worrisome injury he incurred during the quarterfinal World Cup game against Colombia. The bad news is that he will not play for Brazil in the remainder of the World Cup.

Soccer is more than a game in Brazil; it’s a religion. That’s the cliché, but behind that cliché is supreme truth. For a country that defines itself by the game and its long history of domination, and has constructed 12 stadiums and spent an estimated $14 billion to host this World Cup, losing its star player has devastated the country.

In the 88th minute of the quarter-final game, Neymar was hit in the lower back by a drive from the knee of opposing Colombian player Juan Zuniga. That resulted in a fracture to the L3 vertebrae in his back. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and air lifted to the hospital.

And then the craziness began to emerge, including videos of little children crying and praying on Neymar’s behalf, and more, a wild report that he could somehow be rehabilitated to resume play in the World Cup.

An article was released by SBNation that quoted a Portuguese report on It repeated a claim that doctors would provide pain killers so that Neymar would be able to take to the field.

Dr. Arien Smith is a spine specialist at Advanced Neurosurgery Associates (ANA) in New Jersey and New York. He makes the following comments on Neymar’s situation:

“While it doesn’t sound like Neymar’s fracture requires a surgical procedure, it is unlikely he could return to play in the World Cup. If he did, he would certainly risk further injury to the spine.”

While a fall or blunt object could fracture some of the bones, Dr. Smith also points out that in addition to a knee to the back qualifying as a source of injury, the injury could also include disruption to the surrounding ligaments.

The SBNation article, which makes it clear there is no credible evidence that anyone actually considers Neymar able to play again in the World Cup, quotes the explanation that in addition to pain-killing injections, “A procedure would involve isolating the 22-year-old’s vertebrae to return full feeling to his extremities.” In addition to the possibility of further spinal damage by trying to play, Dr. Smith also explains that any isolating of the vertebral fracture would require surgical intervention. “I’m not aware of any non-surgical intervention that would do this,” he says. Dr. Smith explained that an external brace immobilizes the fracture, and that is what is indicated—but not for an upcoming game of soccer; rather, he says, it is utilized for the 6-8 week healing process.