Cape Town - When news filtered through that Duane Vermeulen’s late withdrawal from the Stormers’ starting line-up in their 19-19 draw against the Lions on Saturday was neck related, concerns were immediately raised over his availability for this year’s World Cup.
But according to Stormers team doctor Jason Suter, it is “unlikely” that the number eight will be ruled out of the tournament.
Suter sat in on Saturday’s post-match press conference to clarify Vermeulen’s situation, and while he was very clear not to speculate, he did acknowledge that the next 24 hours would be very important in the prognosis.
"Duane Vermeulen suffered from severe neck spasms after the captain’s practice yesterday (Friday). We did an MRI which showed he had a bulging disc at a C5 level. The disc is bulging onto the nerve root and that is causing intense spasm and based on that he was removed from today’s game as he was not functional," Suter said.
"In terms of his prognosis and management, it’s too early to say at the moment and we can’t tell you what that management is going to be. At this stage he has no neurological symptoms so he has no fallout that requires urgent intervention or surgery, but the next 24 hours will tell us a lot in terms of how we’re going to manage him and how long the expected time for recovery is. He’ll see a neurosurgeon on Monday … the scans have been forwarded to the neurosurgeon."
Surgery would almost certainly rule Vermeulen out for the rest of Super Rugby.
"The fact is at this stage he has no nerve signs and because he’s got no nerve signs it could recover quickly," Suter continued.
"But if it doesn’t recover then you have to do something about it and surgery potentially becomes an option. I don’t want to speculate at this stage … according to the neurosurgeon we can’t be guaranteed that the spasm is coming from that nerve root because he’s not localising to any signs so it’s too early to say."
Suter said that it was "very unlikely" that Vermeulen would recover for Saturday’s trip to the Sharks and that they were "aiming for playoffs".
"That was his rest week in any case," coach Allister Coetzee added.
If Vermeulen did require surgery, his recovery period would still be unclear.
"It depends on what surgery is going to be done, whether it’s a discectomy or another procedure and that’s not my area of expertise," said Suter.
The good news is that the doctor, at this stage, did not see it likely that the number eight would miss the World Cup.
"You can’t rule it out but it would be unlikely," said Suter.