Derek Dorsett’s NHL career may be over due to health risks from back injury

The Vancouver Canucks won’t be getting back forward Derek Dorsett anytime soon “due to health reasons and risks associated with playing,” the team announced Thursday morning. Dorsett underwent cervical disc herniation surgery in December 2016 and has been suffering recurring symptoms from that issue recently.

Dorsett opened the season with the Canucks after “successful treatment and rehabilitation,” but has been sidelined since Nov. 18. He had been playing well with seven goals in 20 games before “symptoms of neck and back stiffness” caused him to be pulled from the lineup.

While the press release doesn’t outright say that Dorsett is retiring from professional hockey, much of it suggests that’s the case. “His pre-existing conditions, combined with the recent surgery and the risks associated with continuing to play, led to a recommendation that Derek seriously consider not playing again,” team doctor Bill Regan said in a statement.

Dorsett also doesn’t sound like he’ll necessarily keep pushing to play if it means risking his long-term health. Here’s his full statement:

“I’m devastated by the news. It will take a long time for this to truly sink in. As hard as it was to hear, Dr. Watkins’ diagnosis is definitive. There is no grey area, and it gives me clarity to move forward. I have a healthy young family and a long life of opportunities ahead of me. Hockey taught me a lot and it will help me be successful in whatever I choose to do in the future.

“I still have so many thoughts to share and people to thank for all of their support,” continued Dorsett. “What I can say for certain right now is that I left it all out on the ice. I gave my heart and soul to the teams I played for and never backed down from a challenge, including this one. I am proud of the way I played. It made me successful and a good teammate. Most of all I am truly honoured and grateful to have lived the NHL dream.”

Dorsett, who turns 31 in mid-December, is currently in his 10th NHL season. He was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the seventh round in 2006, and made his debut with Columbus in 2008. The Canucks acquired him in a 2014 trade with the Rangers. In 515 career games, he’s recorded 51 goals and 76 points.

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