Pittsburgh Penguins star center Mario Lemieux rested in good condition today after 1 1/2 hours of surgery to relieve pressure caused by a herniated disk in his lower back.
Dr. Peter E. Sheptak, a neurosurgeon at Montefiore-University Hospital, said the surgery should end the pain in Lemieux’s buttocks and leg.
Sheptak and Dr. Ian Pollack operated on Lemieux at Montefiore. They shaved portions of bone from a vertebra in Lemieux’s spine, which in combination with the disk injury had compressed a nerve leading to his legs.
Sheptak said Lemieux would begin a therapy program of swimming and cycling within two weeks and should be able to skate within six weeks. The doctor said he expects Lemieux to recover fully and to “be able to take hard checks.”
The pain forced Lemieux--24, a six-time all-star in the National Hockey League--out of a Feb. 14 game, ending his 46-game scoring streak. At times, the injury was so painful he couldn’t tie his skates.
After missing 21 games, Lemieux returned for the Penguins’ last game March 31 and scored a goal in an overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. The loss knocked the Penguins out of the playoffs.
His doctors had prescribed golf as therapy, and Lemieux sported a back brace at several charity events at western Pennsylvania courses.
Doctors considered surgery for Lemieux in February, but rejected it, wanting to allow him to play with the team and avoid the risk of surgery. But he and his doctors opted for an operation after Lemieux had to skip a golf tournament.