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McCarthy on the mend; neck surgery successful


Published: Thu, January 31, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By JOE SCALZO

Vindicator sports staff

Cardinal Mooney quarterback Dan McCarthy underwent a successful neck surgery Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and expects to make a full recovery.

Tuesday’s procedure was performed by Dr. James D. Kang, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the hospital.

McCarthy, who ruptured discs in his neck during the second round of the Division IV playoffs, will rehab for the next three or four months and redshirt next fall at Notre Dame.

“When I talked to my coaches, they felt, as does my family, that it’s best for me to use that year to learn the system and get stronger,” said McCarthy, speaking by phone from his hospital bed Wednesday. “I’ll be ready to go the year after.”

McCarthy originally was told he would not need surgery and planned to let the injury heal on its own. But after looking at McCarthy’s MRI, Notre Dame’s doctors said they would not clear him to play unless he had surgery first.

“They said it would be like suicide,” said McCarthy. “That left us pretty freaked out.”

McCarthy then met with doctors in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus, who all confirmed that without surgery, football would not be an option.

“Surgery was something I wanted to do,” said McCarthy. “I can’t imagine not going back and being able to play again.”

Monday, McCarthy and his family met with Dr. Kang for the first time and were immediately impressed. Kang, however, said it would take six to eight weeks before he could perform the surgery.

“I was like, ‘We really want to get it done now. How about tomorrow?’ ” McCarthy said. “He just kind of laughed. But then he opened up his date book and said, ‘We actually have a cancellation tomorrow.’

“I was like, ‘Are you serious?’

The surgery involved removing the disc between the fourth and fifth vertebrae and replacing it with cadaver bone covered by titanium, McCarthy said. The bone will fuse together naturally. During the procedure, doctors also discovered a piece of vertebrae that had been jarred loose during the impact.

“It was sitting on my spinal cord,” said McCarthy. “They could have never found that through an MRI.”

McCarthy is scheduled to come home today. He will soon be able to exercise on a stationary bike and expects to begin light exercises in three weeks. The rehab process should take between three and fourth months.

“They [the doctors] said my bones are real strong and they expect a 100 percent full recovery,” said McCarthy.

After that, McCarthy can begin working on another piece of rehabilitation — Notre Dame’s reputation.

“Yeah,” he said, laughing. “A lot of people are asking, ‘Why are you going there?’ They saw the games last year and they joke about it.

“But I say, ‘Well, you’ll see. The future’s bright there.’ ”

scalzo@vindy.com


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