Back on the Mat: A Wrestler’s Journey After Spine SurgeryIn the news
“Wrestling has always been one of my passions,” explained Mark Dollins, who played the sport in both high school and college. When he started his corporate career, he stepped away for a bit and as a result, de-prioritized his physical health.
Fast forward a few decades to when he underwent a spinal fusion to relieve nagging back pain. After that procedure, he became motivated to get back into wrestling and took the opportunity to change his focus to make sure he was taking the best care of his body. He focused on good health and started attending annual wrestling competitions.
A few years later, he sought out Scott Simon, MD, neurosurgeon at ONS, when he was experiencing pain at the fusion site (L5). Mark had developed severe degeneration and stenosis (nerve pinching) above his previous fusion.
Prior to Dr. Simon, Mark had seen other specialists about maintaining his spine care as his fusion was performed out of state. Many of them advised him to stop wrestling. “I was shocked by their intense treatment solutions (including a full fusion) which would’ve effectively debilitated my daily life. I told Dr. Simon I have more life to live,” recalled Mark.
Dr. Simon told Mark that if wrestling motivates him to keep active and stay at a healthy weight, it’s better to do what you love. To Mark, that was a big differentiator in physician care. “We talked through treatment options and since I had been living with pain for so long, I was ready for surgery to get some relief,” said Mark.
In 2012, Dr. Simon performed a successful minimally invasive spine decompression procedure. Very shortly after the procedure, Mark felt back to normal. Dr. Simon has remained Mark’s spine specialist to this day, even referring him to Christopher Sahler, MD, interventional physiatrist at ONS, for additional care.
“Dr. Simon is a physician who really cared to help me stay out of pain and pursue my passions and for that, I am forever grateful. I am appreciative of his knowledge and expertise, but also his attitude and ability to work directly with patients to help them achieve what they want in life,” explained Mark.
Ten years later, he’s still competing. He’s returned from the USA Wrestling National Championships each spring in Cedar Falls, Iowa with a total of three national titles, the most recent being in 2021.
He also coaches youth wrestling in Ridgefield where he lives, which keeps him engaged in the sport. He enjoys continuing to learn from other coaches and bringing that knowledge back to the kids that he trains.
“It’s so important to find a physician who looks for the right approach for each patient. I appreciated him wanting to work with me instead of just telling me to stop being active. That’s a true partner in health, not just a gatekeeper,” said Mark.
Mark is now in his early 60s and currently training for four tournaments next spring.