Off-Season Neck Exam Could Spell End for Peyton Manning's Career

peyton manning acdf neck injury surgery

Manning left the Colts for the Broncos, returning to form after his 2011 ACDF neck surgery.

Is Peyton Manning’s career drawing to a close? Rumor has it that the Bronco’s quarterback may be forced into retirement depending on the results of a scheduled off-season neck exam.

Having undergone several neck surgeries to address a painful herniated cervical disc, Manning managed to return to form for the Broncos. He’s now waiting to hear if it’s still safe for him to play next season but has he already dropped hints that he’s set to retire?

At 37, Manning has an impressive record, missing just 16 games in his entire career. Those games were during the 2011 season in which he played for the Colts, and the player sat them out due to the neck injury for which he had successful surgery that allowed him to return to action, this time with the Broncos.

Footballers and Neck Injuries

Footballers are at a high risk of traumatic neck injury and spine problems due to the high speed collisions and constant wear and tear on the spine of twisting, running and diving for touchdowns. Manning began suffering from symptoms of a herniated disc in his neck whilst playing for the Colts and he underwent neck surgery in 2011 including a single level anterior fusion (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion/ ACDF) to decompress the cervical spine.


This type of surgery involves the surgeon making an incision at the front of the neck, removing a herniated disc and then inserting a bone graft to fuse the cervical vertebrae together. As such fusion takes time the player had to sit out the 2011 season. The player would have had to rest initially to ensure that the hardware put into place, such as a metal plate and screws, did not move out of position and that the bone graft fused as desired.

The result of such surgery is a less mobile, but more stable neck. Cervical spinal nerves that were being irritated by herniated disc material would be freed and Manning’s pain much reduced as the nerves recovered. The worry, however, was that the player would not be able to regain his pre-injury arm strength and the Colts cut him loose, allowing him to sign for the Bronco’s and have a successful 2012 season. His form arguably improved even further in 2013 as he broke Drew Brees’ single-season passing yardage mark and Tom Brady’s single-season touchdown record.

Manning Set to Retire?

The Broncos will clearly be hoping that Manning’s cervical spine assessment allows him to return to serve out his contract which runs until 2016, especially as their back-up quarterback, Brock Osweiler, is yet to start an NFL game. In a thoroughly vague statement, Manning recently said “The light is at the end of the tunnel for me, no question.” This may mean he thinks his neck problems are over, or that it’s time for him to retire gracefully before another serious injury occurs.

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