SpineSports Medicine

Florida Gators lineman Roderick Johnson retires with spinal condition

Florida offensive tackle Rod Johnson has plans for a new tattoo, one to mark his final day as a football player.

Johnson, who had been expected to start for the Gators this fall, instead ended his career Tuesday because of a spine problem.

The team released a statement saying Johnson has been diagnosed with congenital cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that prevents enough fluid to gather around the spinal cord. The fluid protects the spinal cord from injury.

“Just heartbreaking news on Rod,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said before a speaking engagement Tuesday evening. “It was one of those deals that we wanted to make sure that we got as many opinions as possible to make sure. Just feel horrible for him, and yet at the same time, a blessing that it was kind of discovered through what we kind of thought was probably a stinger.”

Johnson experienced numbness in his fingers and hands after he was injured April 3 during a scrimmage. McElwain initially called it a stinger but later said it could be career-threatening. Johnson sat out the final week of practice along with Saturday’s spring game.

Johnson posted on his Twitter page Tuesday that he wants a tattoo to remember his final playing day, saying “4/3/15 will tat it on me my last play in the swamp saw that white light when I went down and I stood and walk off the field with pride.”

The 6-foot-6, 296-pound Johnson underwent several tests, and Florida’s medical team consulted with specialists before recommending he retire from football.

McElwain made it clear Saturday that Johnson’s future was in doubt and he didn’t want to risk further injury.

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