In a matter of weeks, Charlotte Independence defender Clay Dimick went from pure elation to utter disappointment and uncertainty. Dimick was the hero in the Independence’s win against Greenville Triumph SC on July 19, 2023, scoring the game-winning goal in the final moments of stoppage time. Just 10 days later, Dimick began feeling pain in his neck after the team’s game against Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC. This feeling began an arduous battle for Dimick and his family.
“I’ve never been injured before,” Dimick shared. “The worst injury I’ve had was a sprained ankle, so I thought this would heal itself in a couple weeks or maybe at worst get a quick surgery and be back by playoffs.”
As he faced more symptoms, starting with tingling through his arms and legs, Dimick began to realize this was no simple injury. The ultimate sign that the issue was serious came when Dimick was at practice doing a drill with hurdles, and he could not lift his left leg above the hurdle. This was not an injury that had a simple fix, and he needed to see a doctor.
In his first appointment with a neurosurgeon, the doctor told him, “If you were my son or my brother, I wouldn’t let you play again because the surgery you need to get is very intense.”
“I’m not much of a cryer and my wife will tell you that, but I broke down,” Dimick said. “It was scary because I have two kids at home, I have a wife and so much more after soccer, so to think about how my career was being taken away and how active I could be after this was scary.”
Not willing to accept this fate quite yet, Dimick decided to see another specialist for a second opinion. After all, this was a life-changing decision.
The second specialist suggested a two-level cervical artificial disc replacement. In this procedure, the two ruptured discs are removed and replaced with fake discs. This surgery provides patients with a better lifestyle after recovery compared to the fusion surgery originally suggested which inserts screws and rods in place of the discs.
No professional athletes have ever returned to playing after a two-level cervical artificial disc replacement. Two National Hockey League players have undergone a one-level version of this procedure and returned to the ice successfully, but the two-level replacement is unprecedented for professional athletes.
There were never any guarantees that Dimick would play again,…