Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton said his back is in constant pain and he is contemplating what would be career-ending surgery, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.
Horton, 29, has not played this season; his most recent game was April 8 against the Arizona Coyotes.
"I can't stand up like a normal person; I can't bend over," Horton told reporter Aaron Portzline. "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 was not 100 percent last season; he said he changed the way he skated in an attempt to alleviate some of the back pain. But that led to a groin injury that required season-ending surgery.
"After I rehabbed the groin, my back flared again, and it has not gone away," Horton said. "I went back to Florida in the spring (May) to rehab it, and I went for an easy jog, just 25 minutes, to get back into it. The next couple of days, I couldn't move. And here we are. I couldn't jog right now if I wanted to.
"I've tried everything. I've seen so many doctors. So many people think they can fix me and they're so optimistic, and then I get optimistic, but then ??? nothing changes. It's so frustrating. I've heard from so many people with back issues, and it's a different thing, the pain. It controls everything."
Should Horton opt to have surgery, it likely would include a three- or four-level spinal fusion with a titanium rod. Horton knows that would mean the premature end to his career.
"At some point soon, we've got to make the call," he said. "I don't want to have surgery, because of what that means. I don't want to live with this pain, but I don't want to make that decision. It's hard for me to say that, at 29 years old, I'm done. I mean, really? Done at 29?"
Horton was the Florida Panthers' first-round pick (No. 3) in the 2003 NHL Draft. He has 203 goals and 218 assists in 627 games with the Panthers, Boston Bruins and Blue Jackets. He helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, scoring eight goals and nine assists in 21 playoff games.
He signed a seven-year, $37.1 million contract with Columbus in the summer of 2013.