Significance of bulging C2-3 disc lost in Eric Wood’s press conference

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Lost in the shuffle of Eric Wood’s bizarre press conference on Monday was the information he shared forcing him into retirement – a bulging cervical (neck) disc at the junction between his second and third vertebra. However, the announcement of his retirement was overshadowed by being 50 minutes late for the conference and a hasty statement made by Wood without taking questions from the media.

While speculation is rampant regarding the mysterious way the press conference was handled, I’d like to take a few moments and focus on the actual content of his message – retirement was the only option because of a bulging disc in his neck at the junction of his second and third cervical vertebra.

Why would this condition force Wood into retirement?

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Wood reported that his MRI showed a large bulging disc at the C2-3 level of his cervical spine. As the spinal cord exits the brain, it is a thick bundle full of nerves that exit to various parts of the body allowing movement and sensation.

The higher up on the cervical spine (the closer to the brain) injury/degeneration occurs, the more dangerous the bulging discs become in terms of catastrophic injury. A bulging disc may eventually rupture and in Mr. Wood’s case could be life threatening if it came in the form of a NFL-caliber blow to the neck. Hence the reason to hang up the cleats.

If Wood were in a less physically risky occupation, the danger of paralysis is minimal. Surgery can be performed if his symptoms (pain, tingling, numbness, loss of muscle strength) persist. However, surgery to repair a ruptured or bulging disc carries its own set of complications and there are other issues to consider.

If trauma was the only reason the disc bulged, surgical repair could be successful. However, if Wood also has a condition called degenerative disc disease, all bets are off.

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Degenerative disc disease is a progressive condition, meaning at this time medical intervention cannot stop the progression of the disease even after surgery and/or other treatment. It is thought to be hereditary but there is much more to learn about why it happens in some individuals.

The bottom line is that Mr. Wood should be able to live a relatively normal life with or without surgery.  Bulging or ruptured discs are not an uncommon occurrence, as many people reading this can attest.

However, most people don’t play football in the NFL.

While surgery may be the right answer for some, it’s not a cut and dry decision. If degenerative disc disease is present as well as a bulging or ruptured disc, there is a greater likelihood of failure and complications down the road.

Surgery doesn’t always fix the problem – and for some, it can actually make it worse – so it’s wise to try the most conservative measures first. Physical therapy outlining a specific treatment plan (yoga, stretching, weight and cardiovascular training,) as well as avoiding activities that aggravate the condition can help many people avoid the knife.

Whatever the reason for the strange set of circumstances yesterday at Wood’s press conference, there’s no question about the medical information he provided. He clearly outlined what happened from a medical perspective and is wise to take his time in making the best treatment decision possible to maximize his quality of life in the future.

Editor’s babble: Like every Bills fan, my heart sunk with the news about Eric Wood’s sudden retirement. However, when I found out why, it sunk even further because I had emergency surgery for a ruptured cervical disc in 1997. His road whether he has surgery or not will be filled with good days and bad days. What will sustain his quality of life is his loving nature and compassionate soul. We are blessed to have enjoyed watching Eric Wood play football. Now we will support him and his family as he moves forward with the next chapter in his life.

You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

*All content shared by authors is solely their own and not necessarily that of


About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.

13 Replies to “Significance of bulging C2-3 disc lost in Eric Wood’s press conference”

  1. Thanks for sharing, it is a shocker as the news came out of nowhere. Hopefully the mess can be cleared up over the bazaar news conference.

    Didn’t WR Michael Irving have to retire do to the same type of problem?

    • Hi Goose!

      Yes, I believe that’s correct about Michael Irvin.

      No doubt a shocker about Wood. What I also found odd was how specific he was with the information shared that he had TWO stingers in a row mid-season and an MRI wasn’t done until the end of the season. Xray doesn’t show bulging/ruptured discs. It’s odd they didn’t check that out by MRI at the time.

      The Bills are fortunate to have Ryan Groy IMO. He played very well in Wood’s absence in 2016. In fact, I’m now wondering if part of Wood’s decline in performance was an issue of decreasing leverage caused by impinged cervical nerve and subsequent muscle weakness.

      Well, there’s NO WAY he should even lift weights over his head, etc… so career in football is definitely out of the question.

      As far as his contract, I’m confused about how in the world they could be planning this event for two weeks and at the last minute have some kind of contractual problem???

      Thanks again, Goose!

  2. The Bills D-line coach Mike Waufle retire and there are reports they have let go DB coach Byrd…

    • Just saw that report. Hmmmmmmmm… wondering about guys on offense… Juan Castillo… so assistant coaches are being shuffled this week it seems…

  3. “As far as his contract, I’m confused about how in the world they could be planning this event for two weeks and at the last minute have some kind of contractual problem???”

    Agreed. And I REALLY hope the Bills aren’t going to attempt to screw Wood over. Whatever the case, they look absolutely ridiculous, regardless of the reason. To schedule a big press conference and have former teammates and family all fly in only to have it go down like that. Hour late start, 90 second statement, no question and answer…then McDermott still calling it Eric’s day afterword? I dunno…that’s kind of offensive. It’s like congratulating a guy on his wedding day after he just finds out his wife cheated with the best man hours earlier…congrats on your big day, groom! The whole thing makes the Whaley season ending press conference from a year ago look not so bad by comparison.

    • Agreed 100% Wood’s retirement, Whaley’s press conference and Hasek’s jersey retirement are three baffling, head-scratching and embarrassing moments in Buffalo sports. I mention Hasek’s ceremony as it looked botched and very unorganized.

      With Wood’s condition, I definitely feel his pain as I have degenerative disc disease in my neck and lower back from my years in the Marines. I have to see a chiropractor two to three times a year as flare ups get me to the point of immobilization. Wood was a very good player for the Bills for many of years and came back from some nasty injuries.

      In Bills news, D-line coach Mike Wauffle retired. Secondary coach Gil Byrd was fired and replaced by John Butler. From what I read, Butler is a great secondary coach. Seems his best work was with the Texans when they had the 2nd best secondary in the league.

  4. The Byrd firing is a little odd. Of the entire team, the secondary was probably the most impressive unit this year and was a complete overhaul…not to mention 3/4 of them got player of the month honors, Hyde was a pro-bowler, Poyer arguably played at a pro-bowl level, and White was a contender for D rookie of the year. So naturally the secondary coach had to go…

  5. Alex Smith to the Redskins, Kirk Cousins to be a free agent.

    Ian Rapoport
    There is an agreement in principle for Alex Smith to go to the #Redskins. The deal will be finalized tomorrow. This means Kirk Cousins will be a free agent. Mega-deal.

  6. Thank goodness! I didn’t want the Bills doing something stupid like trading picks for Alex Smith. I do think he’s a slight upgrade to Tyrod Taylor, but you can be mediocre with either guy. Bringing in Alex Smith as a short term, stop gap free agent…not too bad of an idea. Trading assets for Alex Smith…not too good of an idea. I would hate life right now if I were a Redskins fan. You probably downgraded at the position slightly…and gave up a good player and a pick to do so. Congrats.

  7. While I think Cousins would be an upgrade over Taylor, I think he would cost too much and wouldn’t be worth the price.

  8. I would agree with that. Cousins is a lot like Joe Flacco…an asset to the team at a reasonable salary where you’re able to build a dominant team around him, but a detriment to the team when his salary restricts what you’re able to put around him. Neither is good enough to elevate the team on his own.

  9. Good morning…

    I liked Alex Smith but not at $94 million with $71 guaranteed —No Way!!

    I wonder if any team will ante up for Cousins with his ridiculous salary? The rumor is the Broncos are interested.

    Those salaries are team killers as it is harder to build the surrounding pieces.

    Maybe the Bills can now trade TT as he may be a bargain at what he makes.

    • Agreed Goose, which is another reason why I think McBeane will move up in the draft to take a QB as they want to build up the team first before having to shell out tons of money on a franchise QB after the rookie deal is over with (assuming the Bills can finally draft a franchise QB).