On April 11, 2011, the wrestling world collectively dropped their jaws as we all listened to the retirement speech of Edge. The Rated R-Superstar said he was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis.
What is cervical spinal stenosis?
CSS is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal, at the cervical level. This level is the first seven vertebra in the neck (C1-C7). The human spine is designed so that the spinal cord runs through openings in each vertebra of our spine.
With CSS, the spinal cord is essentially being pinched by the narrowing of the openings of the vertebra in the neck. This is a very serious condition that will alter the way a person lives the rest of their life.
Symptoms of CSS include: Standing discomfort, numbness and weakness in the extremities.
The spinal cord controls many parts of the body. In the cervical section, seven functions of movement are controlled.
Neck Flexors: Controlled by C1-C6
Neck Extensors: Controlled by C1-T1
Supply Diaphragm: Controlled by C3-C5
Shoulder and Arm Movement: Controlled by C5-C6
Elbow and Wrist Extension: Controlled by C6-C7
Flexes the Wrist: Controlled by C7-T1
Supply Small Muscles of Hand: Controlled by C7-T1
Out of that entire list, the most life threatening is the diaphragm, controlled by C3-C5. The diaphragm aids in our respiratory functions, and if this part of the spine is damaged, death is almost inevitable.
In Edge’s case, you can see that the arms are controlled by much of the spine in the cervical area. The arms are vital to a pro wrestler. The arms are responsible for about 75% of all wrestling moves. If the arms cannot function right, any opponent of Edge could be seriously injured during the performance of a move. Wrestlers pride themselves for taking care of their opponent, and I don’t think Edge would be able to live with himself if he continued to compete, and injured a fellow wrestler because of CSS.
Currently, there is no chance of improvement when you are diagnosed with this condition. The reason being is because nerve cells are not regenerated by the body. In order for a cell to be repaired, they need to under-go cell divison, and nerve cells are the only cells in the body that do not. In fact, all your nerve cells are formed by the time you are six months old. By six months old, I mean while you are still safe and sound inside the womb of your mother at the sixth month.
In the future, there may be a way to regenerate nerve cells through the use of stem cells. Stem cells can be turned into every cell in the body. Ten years from now, we may be able to fix this condition, along with other crippling nerve damage diseases.
For now we are stuck with the medicine and technology of the world we currently live in. With the tools we have today, no doctor invloved with any wrestling promotion will ever clear Edge to compete in the ring again.
Louie Babcock has over 5 years experience working in emergency medicine and is studying biology and health science at the University of Minnesota.
Follow me on Twitter@Medic_Louie