Neck surgery for Gregory Helms
A lot can happen in one year, and Gregory Helms knows that better than anyone. For almost all of 2006, Helms was the Cruiserweight Champion, reigning longer than anyone who had ever held that gold before. Unfortunately, 2007 won't be as fruitful, as Helms will spend the rest of 2007 on the sidelines.
After an exam with world-renowned Dr. Lloyd Youngblood, it was determined that Helms will need surgery to repair two broken vertebrae in his neck. The surgery, which will be performed by Dr. Youngblood in San Antonio, Texas on Monday, will be similar to that undergone by such Superstars as Edge and Chris Benoit, and recovery time will be at least one year before Helms can return to the ring.
"I've been having a great deal of pain in my neck and back for the last couple weeks, but I thought it was just one of those injuries we always get, like a pinched nerve or something," Helms told WWE.com in an exclusive interview.
Unfortunately it wasn't, as an MRI and further testing found the full extent of the damage.
"It turns out that I have two cracked vertebrae, and one of them is pressing into my spinal cord," Helms revealed. "One is just demolished, and they told me that the pain I had outside my neck was pretty common; they call it pain referral. One is pressing so far into the spinal cord that I could risk paralysis if I kept going. We get bumps and bruises all the time, and I've been to the hospital before thinking something was wrong when I was just banged up, so I thought that this time too. I have a high tolerance for pain, but this pain is 24/7."
Helms was busy this past weekend, with four SmackDown live events in three days, and it was about halfway through Saturday when he realized his injury was something substantive.
"Right before the second show in White Plains, I was trying to do some calisthenics and I couldn't do my pushups. I thought maybe I was just tired, but when I tried to flex my triceps, it wouldn't stiffen up. That made me think I had some nerve damage, so I talked to the trainers and Dr. Rios and they sent me for the MRI."
Helms has always been known to give 100 percent every time he steps in the ring, and that didn't stop once he knew something was wrong.
"I teamed with Chavo Guerrero in all four of my matches this weekend and he kept telling me to take it easy, but you know me."
Helms has had plenty of support from his friends and fellow Superstars in the locker room, but the thought of sitting out a year brings out unfamiliar emotions.
"We have a pretty supportive locker room. Edge actually called me and everybody's been standing behind me, which helps a lot," an emotional Helms said. "I've been around a long time, and when the doc told me I couldn't wrestle again for a year, that's when the emotions really set in."
The worst part, Helms said, was actually telling his family about the injury.
"My love for sports-entertainment came from my dad's love for it," Helms revealed, pausing a moment to collect his thoughts and emotions. "My father and I bonded over sports-entertainment, we used to watch together when I was a kid. He's kind of lived vicariously through my career now as I've progressed, and it was really hard to tell him."
One thing Helms is sure of: WWE hasn't seen the last of him.
"Realistically, it's hard to think of the future when you're not sure if there is one, but anyone that knows me knows I'm a 100 percent guy," Helms said. "It's going to be a year of hard work and rehab, but WWE hasn't seen the best of me yet so I can't go out on a down note."