As an competitior and amateur athlete it is imperative to stay healty. What if something were to happen? What would you do? Could you go through a surgery to reapir a major injury or the rehab, to at the very least, walk again? After your rehab could you even consider bowling again?. In our feature this week we talk to David Dowler who himself had just gone through Spinal fusion surgery.

1. How did you injure your back and how long did you suffer from the pain?

My first back injury occurred in high school. I was a pole vaulter and during a landing my back was hurt when I fell into the pit and hit a pallet that was underneath the mats. I healed up well from that but years of walking up and down ladders on ships, doing extreme sports, and other activities that were just to hard on my lower back. My spine began to deteriorate and lost its flexibility. In the last 6-8 years the pain has gradually been getting worse.

2. What made you decide to get the surgery?

Finally last year and a half the vertebra began to impinge on my sciatic nerve and sent pains down my left leg. When the pain got to the point where everyday activities like walking became impossible without taking pain medication, I knew something had to be done.

3. After surgery how much Physical therapy did you do and when did you start bowling again?

Actually this is quite funny. I have not had physical therapy yet. I had been in a brace and the doctor has cleared me to do up to medium activities provided I keep a brace on. Thank goodness that bowling fits into the medium category or I would still be waiting to roll the rock. My doctor has told me he plans to send me to physical therapy once the fusion has taken and I am out of the brace.

4. Did you have to ease into bowling or did you go right back into your game?

Definitely had to ease back into rolling. The first two months I really did no bowling. I was looking on the internet and caught a clip of a Norm Duke video of him doing some release practice from his knees. I thought to myself, that exercise would be relatively low impact and saw no need that I couldn’t give it a shot. So I attended cosmic bowling with the kids a few weeks in a row, where I did nothing but the knee drills. The scores were absolutely terrible but I tried to ignore that and tell myself that practicing the release would help my game when I returned for real. The next step was a slow 2 step approach. I called that my half or three quarters speed bowling. Scores started getting more normal but certain shots were still incredibly hard to complete.

5. Have you fully recuperated?

I have still not fully recuperated. After about 4 months, when I finally joined a league I am back to what I would consider full speed bowling. I still have some inconsistencies and get frustrated at times but I suppose every bowler has some of those times. I am hoping to provide you an update before you publish this article that my back has at least fused and I will be starting physical therapy soon. Keeping my fingers crossed!

6. Do you still have some pain ?

I do still feel some aches, pains, and stiffness, mostly in the morning (especially if the weather is colder). It is nothing like the pain I was experiencing prior to the surgery. I am only taking tylenol for pain now and that doesn’t really help. I would say that the pain is very managable at this point.

7. Are you bowling better or worse?

Tough question….. Since my surgery, I have not been real consistent in my overall bowling. I joined my first sanctioned league and the first 3 weeks were VERY mundane, I missed a lot of easy spares, got a lot of pocket 9’s and couldn’t seem to get into a groove. Starting in the fourth week though my scores have started dramatically increasing.

8. Would you go through that again?

When people sympathize with my situation (IE see me in my brace), I always tell them that the surgery has made my quality of life so much better. I cannot imagine where I would be had I not opted to get the surgery.

9. What would you recommend to those who have back problems and bowl?

The most important thing is to not overdo it and take a chance of really injuring yourself. Try to give your back a chance to heal if you do injure it. If you have chronic back pain, go to a doctor and get a professional opinion. My advice is to make surgery your last option.

10. Please add any personal information you think would be of help to others?

Play your game, don’t worry about what the other guy/gal is throwing. The truth is you have no bearing on how their game is going to come out. An opportunity presented itself for me to participate in some local tournaments (I really didn’t fell I was ready for tournament play, but the situation came up and I decided to start doing them for fun and practice). To my surprise in only my second NABI tournament, I managed to get top qualifier in one of the early squads and that put me into the semifinals play. The lanes were breaking down a bit and I through my best game of the tournament in the seeind round ultimately gaining the second seed in the step ladder of match play. The third seed through a great game leading into our match, so I told myself to concentrate on not leaving open frames and have a solid game. I actually won both of my games and ended up winning the tournament. The following day in my league, I broke my personal best for a single game with a 251 (I realize that is not a huge score for some, but I think it is important to note my previous PR of 248 stood for 2 straight years). Recently my practice sessions have yielded some fantastic results; I managed to throw my first 700 series ever, three consecutive 200+ games, 14 consecutive strikes (over 2 games) and even managed to maintain a 212 average over 12 practice games. So while I feel that I am an improved/improving bowler, I have not necessarily decided that I am a better bowler now than I was before the surgery. I always felt like I was a decent bowler with untapped potential, I just want to be a great bowler consistently. In my tournament that I won the number three seed threw a 256 to win his play in match, I knew if he rolled that against me that my tournament was likely over. I started off with a couple of spares, but told myself to concentrate on closing those frames. To my surprise, the guy opened the first frame and because I closed my first two he must have had an awful sense of urgency. He never recovered and I beat him straight up 179-149 (neither a very good score for either of us – but the lanes were transitioning), my point is I played my game and didn’t worry about what he was doing. Never give up because you never know when someone will blow a frame or two and really have that subpar game.

Thank you for your experiences and sharing them with all of us. I am glad your doing well and wish you a healthy progression as you bowl along. Please feel free to write me and let our readers know of your new accomplishments.