David Wilson left Tuesday's practice with a burner injury to his surgically repaired neck, and although the Giants were immediately unsure of the ramifications of the injury, the news was met with trepidation not only for Wilson's health but his career in the NFL.
"We'll hear what they say first," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We were all praying that it would be not an issue and he would be able to come back and just go to work . . . We'll see what the doctors say."
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Dr. Craig Levitz, chief of orthopedic surgery at South Nassau Hospital and co-author of a study on burners in pro football players that was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, stated the obvious to Newsday: "Not good," he wrote in an email. Levitz has not examined Wilson.
"Burners are usually no big deal but in a player with surgery and pre-existing cervical stenosis it is very worrisome," Levitz said. "Dr. Joseph Torg out of the University of Pennsylvania has argued that burners in the face of stenosis are a contraindication to continued play."
In other words, it may be medically advisable that Wilson never play football again.
Wilson, 23, missed most of last season with a neck injury that ultimately required surgery in January to fuse his vertebrae together. He was cleared to participate fully in training camp last week and had been moving through the practices without issue. Until Tuesday, that is, when he suffered what is technically called a "transient neurapraxia" and more commonly referred to as a burner or stinger. It is usually accompanied by numbness and tingling, although Coughlin said he wasn't sure exactly what Wilson's symptoms were.
Wilson went to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan for what the Giants called "a battery of tests and a complete work-up to determine the effects of the burner he suffered."
Wilson caught a shovel pass from Curtis Painter, turned upfield with his head down and ran into the back of guard Eric Herman. Wilson walked off the field under his own power, escorted by the team's head trainer, Ronnie Barnes, with about 10 minutes left in the workout.
Wilson reported feeling "great" after receiving the first hits of camp last week and said he had no concerns about doing further damage to his neck. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who overcame a neck injury in 2010, said last week that he understood why Wilson would risk his well-being to play again.
"This is a great opportunity that only comes around once in your life," he said. " . . . For all of us, when you're forced with considering retirement prematurely, that's a real tough thing and it really makes you reflect on all of the years you put in."
Wilson had been taking second-team reps throughout camp. The Giants shaped their roster as if he would not be able to return this season, signing Rashad Jennings and drafting Andre Williams. Wilson was considered a bonus if he could remain healthy enough to play.
That "if" is now a lot smaller.