Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton has not played in a game this season and now he's facing the question of whether or not he'll ever play again.
Horton has yet to take the ice this season because he's dealing with a degenerative back condition that is making his daily life a living hell, as Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reported.
"I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over," Horton said in his first public comments about his condition. "I can’t run. I can’t play with my kids. To get in and out of the car, I’m like a 75-year-old man … so slow and stiff. I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime."
Horton can either hope the pain subsides enough to get back on the ice and potentially play or undergo surgery on his back -- a procedure Portzline says would be a three- or four-level spinal fusion with a titanium rod -- and have his career end at age 29.
Horton says he doesn't want surgery, but he understands that it might be the only way he can be rid of the pain that keeps him living a normally functional life. Horton signed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with Columbus in July 2013. He won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
Horton's short time in Columbus has been difficult. When he signed with the Blue Jackets, he underwent shoulder surgery that put him out until January 2014. He then missed the playoffs dealing with a groin injury. It was while recovering from that injury he discovered how badly his back was hurt.
Back problems ending a player's career early isn't something new in the NHL. Hockey Hall of Famer and legendary New York Islanders forward Mike Bossy retired at 28. Former Chicago Blackhawks forward Eric Daze retired at 31, and former Edmonton Oilers forward Craig Simpson hung it up at 28.
For now, Horton will take his time and hope something can alleviate his problem, but with the kind of pain he's in, a decision will come sooner than later.