Part of the answer came to me this weekend, through the story of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr. Kerr missed his team's playoff victory Saturday because he was in too much pain to sit on the bench, and he does not know if he will be able to attend any playoff games this year. He also missed about half of last season. He blames his troubles on what the sports press all refer to as his "botched back surgery" of two years ago:
On Sunday, Kerr announced his absence was related to lasting pain from back surgery he had in 2015, shortly after the Warriors' championship win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.So I suppose the reason the overall numbers are a wash, despite the many success stories, is that for some people back surgery is a disaster. Surgery is always dangerous, and more and more studies have lately shown that the harm done by some kinds of surgery (heart bypass for angina, arthroscopic knee surgery for torn cartilage) balances out the benefit. So I'm with Kerr: if you can get by without it, don't let them cut you open.
"This past week, for whatever reason, things got worse, my symptoms got worse, and I was not able to coach" said Kerr, who missed the start of the 2015-16 season due to chronic pain as a result of the surgery. "The last few days have been difficult ... I was uncomfortable at practice the other day, and with things getting worse, I just made the decision I couldn't coach." . . .
While Kerr wouldn't specify the recent afflictions, saying only that he felt "discomfort and pain," he did say that he would tell anyone suffering from back pain not to get back surgery.