Schalk Burger’s career could end in three years even if his neck fusion operation proves to be a success.
The is the view of, Dr. Sean Durkin, a leading London-based osteopath who said that Burger could expect chronic accumulative damage to the injured area if he continues to play at the top level.
Speaking to Peter Bills of the Independent Newspaper Group, Durkin said: “If you have a disc injury and they give you a replacement, you are then putting the pressure on the discs above and below. You’re just displacing the strain on to the discs next to it. That means you are decreasing the shelf life on the joints above and below the fusion.
He also warned that the mercurial loose-forward can expect a career stifled by injury on his return.
“Burger may play for another three years, but he will find his recovery rate between games much longer. So how many games a season will people get out of him?”
Burger injured his neck in the second Test against Scotland, and an initial diagnosis forecasted at least 18 months out of the game.
When Burger spoke to keo.ca.za recently, he said the outlook was more promising, and anticipated a return at the beginning of next year.
The news will come as a blow to both Burger and Springbok coach Jake White, who has seen the 2004 IRB Player of the Year as somewhat of a talisman.
And Durkin warned that the injury could have other negative consequences.
“Psychologically, is he ever going to be the same player? He is going to have to be pretty strong mentally to accept the risks.
“It’s like a stroke or heart attack. Once you’ve had one, your chances of another one are increased,” he added.
“You have a weakness there and it’s the same with Schalk Burger. To have a neck fusion operation at 23 is alarming. And in a contact sport like rugby, how do you protect the neck?”