This could have easily been what happened.
Gronk has had two surgeries on his back. During his rehabilitation from the second surgery he was told – you have back issues, do not expect to be pain-free. He has been managing his back pain ever since. This season there have been multiple times that he looked like his back was in pain.
Fast forward to two weeks ago, Gronk is hit hard by Seattle’s Earl Thomas. Still not sure if he also punctured a lung. He has some back pain and is held out of practice due to lung injury. Back pain is worse but not too much worse than it usually is. Gronk is cleared by team doctors to play against Jets because his lung issue is resolved. His back is still sore but not outside of his usual range. Gronk’s family, Gronk, team docs and coaches all agree he can play. OR they agree that he can try to play and if it increases they’ll pull him. If Gronk had had any leg symptoms that they thought were coming from his back they would have gotten an MRI before last night.
Gronk plays against the Jets and has increasing pain that culminated with laying out for the Brady overthrow up the seam. At that point he has back pain he can’t play through. In his book Gronk described his college back issues as causing pain down his legs where his legs felt so heavy he couldn’t jump or run. He could have developed neurologic symptoms like that on Sunday. This only happens when a disc bulge gets bigger and presses on the nerves. That’s a matter of millimeters. Because he’s having nerve issues and is an enormous tight end in the NFL he needs surgery.
THE END (reminder: this was fiction)
Disc bulges with a spine like Gronk’s are CUMULATIVE. I don’t care what Gronk’s family thinks. A bad back is a bad back that can get aggravated at any point.