I had a neck injury playing football, and I’m trying to decide whether to go back and finish the season. I asked two different doctors what I should do, and they told me different things. Why is that? Who should I trust?

Unfortunately, medicine isn’t as cut-and-dried as we would like. Doctors, like people, have different opinions, especially when it comes to guiding athletes who’ve had a neck injury. One doctor’s opinion on these matters may even change over the course of his or her career.

Research has shown that doctors’ opinions have a lot to do with how long they’ve been in practice and their area of specialty. Of course, this doesn’t make it any easier for you to sort through conflicting opinions. It’s hard to weigh the risks and benefits of returning to your sport after a neck injury, especially when some of the risks are unknown. In most cases, returning to the playing field is a personal decision based on the best available advice and with a clear understanding of the potential risks.