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Rare Spinal Surgery Gives MLB Player a Miracle and a Second Chance to Return to Baseball

PHOENIX, Feb. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A Cleveland Indians first baseman has begun spring training after making a remarkable recovery following a debilitating spine injury that nearly shattered his career and left him faced with a risk of complete paralysis. Following an innovative spine surgery at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, David Cooper has returned to baseball – a feat many doctors said may never happen.

David Cooper, first baseman for the Cleveland Indians, has returned to baseball following an innovative spine surgery at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. Cooper has made a remarkable and full recovery following a debilitating spine injury that nearly shattered his career and left him faced with a risk of complete paralysis.

Cooper, 27, was injured while diving into first base while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. His injury was initially described as a jammed neck and upper back spasms however a MRI later diagnosed a much more serious ailment – a large herniated disc in his thoracic spine located deep inside his chest cavity. The herniated disc was compressing and severely deforming the front of his thoracic spinal cord and threatened to permanently paralyze him. Without surgery, Cooper would never play baseball again and he was told that undergoing the traditional surgical method for his injury held many risks and would not likely permit him to play professional baseball.

With limited hope, Cooper was told about a world-renowned spine neurosurgeon in Phoenix who had pioneered a minimally invasive surgical procedure through the chest cavity to treat his injury. Cooper underwent the four hour surgery last April by Curtis Dickman, MD, neurosurgeon at Barrow. Dr. Dickman completely removed the herniated thoracic disc to decompress Cooper's spinal cord, and inserted bone grafts, a titanium plate and two titanium screws through several very small incisions in the side of David's chest cavity.

"Although herniated discs are relatively common, David is among 1 to 2 percent of individuals who suffer a herniated disc in his thoracic spine," says Dr. Dickman. "The surgery we performed is only offered in few places throughout the world and it was David's best hope of returning to baseball."

Just three months following surgery, Cooper was setting his sights on a return to baseball. He has made a full recovery. A free agent after his injury, Cooper signed a major league contract with the Cleveland Indians in December – something he was told may never happen.

"I'm so happy to be playing professional baseball again," says Cooper. "Without this surgery I would be in excruciating pain and I wouldn't have the opportunity to ever play baseball again."

(Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140227/LA74061)

SOURCE Barrow Neurological Institute

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