Second back surgery ends Carter's season

Defensive end Andre Carter underwent back surgery Wednesday for the second time this season, and the 49ers placed him on their injured reserve list later in the afternoon. Carter continues to have pain and numbness in his lower back and legs, so team doctors "opted to go ahead and do a procedure today to find out what it is," Niners head trainer Todd Lazenby said.

Carter woke up in severe pain on the morning after San Francisco's Sept. 12 season opener against Atlanta. He had surgery on Oct. 4 to remove a cyst from his back and missed six games.

Carter returned to the starting lineup on Nov. 14 and started the next five weeks. But before last Saturday's game against Washington, Carter woke up in pain again and was a late scratch from that game.

He continued to experience pain and underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging exam Sunday.

"We're not sure (what it is)," Lazenby said. "It's inconclusive on the MRI. (Doctors) don't think it's a repeat of the exact thing (as before). It's one of two issues. It's either what the doctors call post-operative fluid that is just putting pressure on the nerve root, or it's a new cyst that may have developed.

"The issue at this point is, if it's simple, if it's just the fluid that's pressing around the nerve root, they can drain that out and that could solve the issue. If there's a cyst-type involvement, then they may have to do some additional type of procedure."

But the pain Carter is experiencing now is coming from a different place than where the earlier cyst was removed. Lazenby said Carter has "pinching" pain in his back, tingling in his leg and "symptoms down into his leg and foot."

Lazenby said Carter's problem may not be related to his previous injury or his back surgery of months ago.

"It's in a different position, so it's not the exact same thing," Lazenby said. "If they just drain the fluid out, that's the easy thing. If it's a cyst, based on what they see on the MRI, then it may require some additional things they have to do. It all depends on what they find. There's no way to tell if it's been there for a while or all of a sudden just showed up."

Carter's back problems have limited him this year to being a shell of what he was during his first three NFL seasons, when he produced 25.5 sacks in 46 starts, including 12.5 sacks in his second season of 2002. He started six games this year, finishing with two sacks, 13 tackles and one forced fumble.

Carter looked to be fully recovered from his first back surgery before he returned in November, and the team is baffled by his latest setback.

"I mean, his rehab has been going real well," Lazenby said. "He did real well with his rehab. So, in terms of why he's having a problem again, I can't answer that."

When asked if Carter's latest back problem came out of nowhere, Lazenby said, "This one did, especially. Actually, both of them did. But this one, in particular, really surprised us, because it showed up Saturday morning after he got out of bed."

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