Skier Whose Career Was Nearly Derailed Back On Slopes Thanks To New Minimally Invasive Back Surgery

Top Quote Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Helps extend Athlete's Career With New Minimally Invasive Surgery. End Quote
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA (1888PressRelease) December 11, 2012 - Erich Van Stralen, a 44-year-old athlete and member of Mammoth Masters Ski Team, is a lifelong athlete who competes every chance he can whether it's on the slopes, in triathlons or in Ironman competitions. So when he started experiencing severe back pain due to a herniated disc, he did his best to ignore it and when that didn't work, he tried massage, cortisone shots, physical therapy and finally epidurals. But the pain kept on coming and getting more and more severe. The idea that he might have to undergo surgery seemed an ever more real possibility, but he had heard the horror stories.

    "I know of people - even athletes - who have undergone spine surgery with disastrous results," he said. "Not only did the procedures fail to offer any lasting relief, but sometimes the pain grew even worse after surgery. Surgery seemed like a risky proposition, since every cut could mean the end of my career. I was terrified that I might fall victim to a well-meaning but less-than-skilled surgeon, so I really did my homework. I wasn't going to gamble my future as an athlete to chance."
    Van Stralen's extensive research took him to board-certified orthopaedic spine surgeon Hooman Melamed, M.D., who practices out of Marina del Rey and Beverly Hills, Calif.

    "I'm afraid that Erich's story is not an uncommon one where an athlete's career is derailed due to poor care or a bad spine pathology," said Melamed. "It is critical for the surgeon to conduct a full and comprehensive series of tests to make an accurate diagnosis from which he/she can offer a course of treatment based on that patient's condition and needs. This can only occur by spending time with the patient and really understanding them."

    Melamed deemed that Van Stralen was a prime candidate for a minimally invasive surgical procedure involving a magnifying microscope that allows him to operate with extreme precision with minimal trauma and damage to surrounding muscles, soft tissue and ligaments.

    "I made a very small incision and navigated around a very large paraspinus muscle about 4 inches thick," he recalled. "I snuck under the nerves, and found the disc tear where the piece was protruding out, removed the fragment from both levels and sutured the hole shut."

    Within 4 months, Van Stralen was training again.
    "I feel like my old self again and it's liberating and gratifying," he said. "I encourage those with back problems - especially athletes - to take the time to search for a specialist who will spend the time with you, make a proper diagnosis and has the experience to get the job done. Ask for references and call patients to learn about their experience. I did and it paid off."
    Melamed practices at Disc Sports and Spine Center, 13160 Mindanao Way, Suite 300, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. For more information, call (310) 574-0405 or visit

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