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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 11:53 GMT
Dowson has pioneering operation
An X-ray of Phil Dowson's neck, with the new disc near the bottom
Dowson had a metal disc placed in his neck
Newcastle Falcons number eight Phil Dowson has undergone a cutting-edge operation that involved fitting an artificial disc in his neck.

Dowson needed the surgery because of a pain caused by a prolapsed disc, which occurs when the disc bursts.

It is hoped he will now be back in action as soon as February.

"Normally they fuse the bones together, but for this they replace the disc in between the vertebrae with a metallic synthetic disc," said Dowson.

"It's a big operation because it's working on the spine, involving the spinal cord and the nervous system.

"But I was pretty much able to walk out of the hospital the next day, so it wasn't actually that bad.

"They've done the operation for a while in everyday people, but for sportsmen they only have 18 months of research in Australia, so it's a bit of a pioneering exercise for British sports people I suppose you could say.

"In every day life you don't find yourself under the stresses and pressures of a rugby pitch."

It wasn't so much the actual pain, it was more the pins and needles in my arms and hands that was worrying
Newcastle Falcon Phil Dowson

Dowson was injured during Newcastle's game against Bristol in September, and he admitted that it was a worrying time.

"I was over the ball trying to steal it on the floor, and one of their guys just cleaned me out and caught me on the neck," said Dowson.

"There was nothing wrong or illegal with the challenge, but I just felt a massive electric shock down both of my arms.

"I collapsed and fell over, then when I got up I had really bad pins and needles all the way down from my shoulder.

"I went for a scan and it showed that I had a big bulge in the disc, which was interfering with the spinal chord.

"It wasn't so much the actual pain, it was more the pins and needles in my arms and hands that was worrying because it felt really strange more than anything else."

Despite the seriousness of the injury, Dowson says he feels fortunate because two days later team-mate Ian Peel had his career ended by a similar injury.

Luckily for Dowson his pioneering operation means he is expected to make full recovery and should be in action by February, two months quicker than if he had undergone the standard procedure.

"After this operation to insert the metallic disc they're now looking at about three or four months," he said.

"At the moment I'm pencilling in the beginning of February for a return, although obviously we will take it week by week and not rush if it isn't 100%."


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