February 22, 2019

Benched Marathoner Returns to Pavement Thanks to UAMS Surgeon

By Katrina Dupins

Holder looks forwards to logging miles and loves the camaraderie of the running community in Little Rock. But last summer he had to stop running because of debilitating leg and back pain.

“It was the worst pain I’d ever had and it would not go away,” Holder said. “I fell on July 2 and had a hairline fracture in my left arm. I was treated for that. Then by the end of July, my leg was hurting badly. It became clear in August that it was my back that was giving me grief.”

Man running on street

Holder runs in the Benton 20k in 2017

An MRI showed Holder had a herniated L4-L5 disc, the most commonly herniated disc, located in the lumbar spine just below the waist. Holder’s sports medicine physician Michael Cassat, M.D. referred him to orthopaedic spine surgeon Samuel Overley, M.D. Overley sees patients in the UAMS Orthopedic Clinic on Colonel Glenn Road.

“A fragment of the disk was rubbing against a nerve root that was causing pain shooting down his leg,” Overley said. “Some herniated discs get better on their own or with conservative, non-surgical treatment. But Mr. Holder’s pain wasn’t going away.”

Samuel Overley, M.D. is an orthopeadic spine surgeon at UAMS.

Samuel Overley, M.D., is an orthopeadic spine surgeon at UAMS.

Holder says one of the few ways he could escape from his pain was to lie flat on his back with his legs elevated. He scheduled surgery for Oct. 5.

During the microdiscetomy – a minimally invasive outpatient procedure – Overley removed the disc fragment by using small instruments through a one-inch incision in Holder’s lower back. The relief for Holder was immediate.

“When I got out of recovery, I swung my legs off the table and was amazed that I could stand up with no pain,” Holder said. “I said ‘Wow! Look at this!’”

Overley gave Holder strict instructions to take it easy as he healed.

“I knew he was anxious to get back to running,” Overley said. “But we have to be careful to avoid reherniation.”

Once he was cleared, Holder ran 1.5 miles on Thanksgiving Day. Since then, he’s been steadily increasing his distance. He’s up to 14 miles and plans to run the Little Rock Half Marathon in March. He’s saving the 26.2 miles for the elite Boston Marathon in April, an aspiration for any serious runner. Holder qualified for the race last year before his injury.

He was scheduled to run the New York Marathon last November, but his injury and surgery prevented him from training. Fortunately, organizers deferred his registration to November 2019.

“I’m still working on regaining my speed and stamina but I’m grateful that I’m able to run again. I think Dr. Overley walks on water.”