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I feel your pain, Johnny Knox

February 22, 2013|By Gabe Salgado | For RedEye

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the Bears' offseason moves was their decision to part ways with Johnny Knox, and his immediate retirement. 

Here was a receiver entering the prime of his career, at age 26, on a team that could use all the reliable targets it could get for Jay Cutler.

So why did Knox call it quits? I can empathize because I was in a similar situation in 1997.

Like Knox, I underwent spinal fusion surgery. This procedure uses titanium to stabilize and repair damage to the neck, back and spine areas.

Knox had the operation to repair a cracked facet joint, which was necessary to save his spinal column.

I had the operation because of years of untreated scoliosis, which caused a severe curve in my spine and caused all of the vertebrae in my neck to split in half. I was risking paralysis without treatment.

I was on the operating table for 13 hours. In that time I had three rods, four plates and multiple screws put in to straighten my spine and replace my vertebrae.

And to enter my body safely, the surgeon had to shut down my left lung; this was complicated due to the fact I have asthma.

After the surgery I was in the hospital for two weeks. I required oxygen 24/7, and I had to learn to walk and use the bathroom on my own again.

After I was released, I was on bed rest for a few months, followed by five months of grueling physical therapy to regain mobility and flexibility.

During this time I took a pillow everywhere because I could not sit for long periods of time. I couldn’t stand for long either; I was in constant pain.

I did all this while wearing an back brace. Once the brace was removed, it was time for rehab so I could resume athletic activities.

Over time I slowly returned to playing the sports I loved, but my body was never the same. It took me a good four years before I fully regained the strength, endurance and stamina I had before the surgery.

While Knox has made a remarkable recovery, he hasn’t been able to get his body back to where he needs it to play again. He can’t sit or stand for long, can’t run at the same speed anymore and at one point used a cane to walk.

Could he wait a full four years, or slightly less if he's lucky, to get back into playing form? Obviously he concluded that his body wouldn't cooperate the way he wants.

While Bears fans may be disappointed things turned out this way, I can assure you it is for the best.

Knox has his family, his health and his future to think about now.

Gabe Salgado is a RedEye special contributor. 

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