Ilya Kovalchuk has been Playing with a Herniated Disk in his Back

By Steve Palumbo

It finally appears that the mystery surrounding New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk and his mysterious injury has been solved.

Kovalchuk, the Devils leading goal-scorer during the regular season, missed game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers with a ‘lower-body’ injury.

According to a tweet from Star-Ledger columnist Rich Chere, Kovalchuk does in fact have a herniated disk.

[blackbirdpie url=”!/Ledger_NJDevils/status/198052082538913794″]

Last week I mentioned that the Russian sniper’s injury had to be back related because of the way it altered his skating stride and it worsened in between series. Not only was that the case, its worse than previously suspected.

So what exactly is a “herniated disk?”

I found some information on that may help clear up what is actually going on with Kovy’s bum back.

Each disc of the spine is designed much like a jelly donut. As the disc degenerates from age or injury, the softer central portion can rupture (herniate) through the surrounding outer ring (annulus fibrosus). This abnormal rupture of the central portion of the disc is referred to as a disc herniation.

The most common location for a herniated disc to occur is in the disc at the level between the fourth and fifth lumber vertebrae in the low back. This area is constantly absorbing the impact of bearing the weight of the upper body. This is especially important when we are standing or sitting. The lower back is also critically involved in our body’s movements throughout the day, as we twist the torso in rotating side to side and as we hinge the back in flexion and extension while bending or lifting.

Just from what I read in that passage, it’s a wonder Kovalchuk was even able to stand, forget about skating.

There have been several stories in the media lately questioning the work ethic of Russian hockey players and many were including the Devils star on that list. It is apparent that Ilya Kovalchuk’s name does not belong in that conversation. In fact, Kovalchuk proved to be tougher than anybody ever gave him credit for.

Kovalchuk did practice with the team Thursday morning and skated on the fourth line with Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta. His status for Thursday nights game 3 is questionable at best. But, I’m not going to count Kovy out just yet. He has already proven himself to be one tough cookie.

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