Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports


‘My whole entire body was affected’: 49ers pass rusher Dee Ford details dealing with chronic back issues

Oct 5, 2021 at 11:48 AM--


Some wondered if San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Dee Ford would ever play an NFL snap again. Ford never questioned that. He started dealing with a back injury after Week 1 last season and never returned to the field in 2020. Most felt that any contributions from Ford this season would be a bonus for the 49ers.

Ford has played in all four games this season and racked up three sacks in the process. Two of those came this past weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. Once again, Ford is making an impact on the Niners defense. That's pretty good for a player who many felt might retire.

Retirement, though, was never on Ford's mind.

"For me, personally, [the injury] was tough," Ford said this morning on KNBR's Murph & Mac show. "... I always believed if there's any possibility that I could get back, I'll take that. I don't care if it's 10 percent. If it's 10 percent, then I'm going to exercise my options."

Ford never gave up despite the ordeal of dealing with the symptoms of his injury. The veteran pass rusher went on to detail what followed that first game of last season.

Ford woke up one morning and could barely look down or straighten his leg. He knew something was seriously wrong. The defender immediately went to the team doctors and told them, "Something's not right."

A battery of tests followed. The initial thought was that Ford was dealing with a neck injury.

"Everything looked structurally OK," Ford explained. "I had some stenosis, and all of that in my neck. Long story short, we did every MRI known to man. Everything started gradually getting worse. I went from that to my symptoms [including] I was getting nauseous. Any time you're having compression of a spinal cord, you get very nauseous. You get numbness, tingling, all of that in all your limbs."

Since nothing was conclusive, Ford and the 49ers reached out to the doctor who performed the defender's first back surgery, Dr. Andrew Cordover. They learned that Ford suffered a herniated disc, but that wasn't the main issue.

"Really, after about three months, we found out that I was just basically, my whole spine was just chronically overused," Ford said. "I hit people for a living. It was sort of similar to someone who is born with a degenerative disc disease; similar to that.

"Basically, my whole entire body was affected. I had to sleep on my side for a whole year. It was pretty tough."

All Ford could do was take the situation day by day and work to get better. As players scattered after last season, the pass rusher stayed at the team's Santa Clara facility and worked. He felt he had so much football left in him and did what he could to ensure his playing days weren't behind him.

Surgery was an option for Ford. However, having undergone similar procedures in the past, another might have meant fusion surgery, which would have ended his NFL career. Regardless, Cordover told Ford that no surgery would repair the damage anyway.

"This is a chronic issue," Ford said. "Yeah, my disc may have had a new herniation in my L5; I think that's the disc ... If guys have these issues in their knees, our knees go bad. Once you degenerate so much muscle, you get into ligaments and tendons ... we all feel it. We get older, and you start to feel your knees start popping, clicking, and cracking. Well, that was my spine."

Ford added that he and the 49ers set up a plan during training camp to limit the pass rusher's snap counts and ramp up his workload as he progressed. That has bled into the season. Ford is averaging under 20 defensive snaps per game.

"I'll increase as I go," Ford said. "I'm still in [the process of ramping up]."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Ford below.






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