Flyers’ Sean Couturier to undergo second back surgery

VOORHEES, NJ — Sean Couturier underwent his second back surgery in eight and a half months on Thursday.

The procedure, called a back revision, was performed at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

The first-line center, who has not played since December 2021, is expected to be out for about three to four more months.

Couturier’s bad back has become a problematic and confusing subject.

“I think there’s finally a little bit more clarity,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Saturday. “Hopefully there’s some relief for Sean to make him feel better. Ultimately we still hope he can come back and play.”

Last season, Couturier had back surgery in February that left him unconscious for the rest of the year.

“Back in December when it happened, I don’t know, I think it was just a bit of wear and tear,” Couturier said at his season-ending press conference in late April. “Three or four weeks before that I had some back pain, everyone has it at some point in the year. But they just wouldn’t go away.

“At some point it got so painful that I couldn’t really sleep at night.”

Following his surgery and rehab, the 29-year-old looked set for a full return to start the 2022-23 season. However, a few days before the training camp, he began to experience worrying back pain.

Originally, surgery was not considered necessary for the re-injury. Couturier had been skating in his rehab this month and was feeling better. But then things changed and took him off the ice for further investigation.

“Essentially they went into the same area and had to do more repairs,” Fletcher said.

At the end of last season, Couturier was training and feeling good as he took his break from training. On September 13, however, he admitted to having suffered “some setbacks here and there” during his summer training.

“It’s been a long road with Sean, going back as far as June and July,” Fletcher said. “He felt tense, he felt nerve irritation from time to time. He was told to keep training. He felt better over the summer and then before camp the symptoms seemed to get a little worse, so we got his back.

“At that point we tried non-surgically, we got an epidural, it brought immediate relief. For a few weeks he felt great, really the best he’d felt in a long time. That seemed to wear off and the symptoms came back.

“So it’s been four or five months with this ongoing nerve irritation and symptoms. After speaking to a few different specialists it was decided to go back inside and fix it.”

Fletcher called it “a frustrating process” for Couturier and the Flyers.

“Unfortunately, these operations are not 100 percent. There is a 10 percent chance that they will not fit,” said the GM. “Was he one of those 10 percent to begin with? Was there anything that made things worse over the summer? I don’t know, I don’t know.

“Speaking to several specialists, it became quite apparent that surgery was the only way to hopefully solve the problem. And that’s the only positive thing about it. There was so much uncertainty. I remember sitting in Montreal at the draft and reading the medical report and thinking, “He shouldn’t be in this place.”

“We finally have some clarity and I think we’re going to put Sean in a better place.”

Do the doctors know how the back injury could affect Couturier’s career in the long term?

“I have not spoken [Dr. Andrew B. Dossett]”I know our medical group did that,” Fletcher said. “I think he’s confident that this will really help Sean.”

The Flyers have been hit hard by injuries dating back to the start of last season. They ended the year 25-46-11. Couturier was only available for 29 games.

“He really wants to play,” Fletcher said. “I think he hopes that gives him the chance to come back.”

Up front, John Tortorella’s club is currently missing Couturier, Cam Atkinson (upper body), James van Riemsdyk (broken left index finger) and Patrick Brown (back). Van Riemsdyk underwent surgery on Friday and is expected to be out for six weeks.

The Flyers go 5-2-0 into Saturday’s matchup at home to the Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

“This group has been resilient so far this year,” Fletcher said. “Torts has done a great job and taken responsibility. I know the players are focused on what they’re doing, they’re buying in and we just have to keep pushing forward.”

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