The headlines read: Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback Tony Romo ”broke his back” during a National Football League (NFL) pre-season game against the Seattle Seahawks. What does this mean? Well, from from a short-term football perspective, the Cowboys will have to go with a rookie, Dak Prescott, at QB until Romo returns. But what does this mean for the career of Romo, who is 36-years old and has had a history of back injuries? Back injuries have derailed the careers of other professional athletes. For example, back ailments including a herniated disk eventually helped end Larry Bird’s Hall-of-Fame basketball career. However, athletes have also returned to full form from back problems. For instance, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned seemingly to full form after surgery for a herniated lumbar disk in 2013. The difference is Romo is older than the Gronkowski, who is now 27 years old, and has suffered two significant back injuries previously: in 2013, a ruptured disk in his lower spine, which subsequently was repaired by surgery and then in 2014, two transverse process fractures, also in his lower spine.

This time Romo’s injury is different from his previous injuries. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) revealed that Romo has a compression fracture of the first vertebral body of his lumbar spine, otherwise known as L1.  Here’s the play that caused the injury: