Did Perry's Back Surgery Affect Debate Performances?

Presidential candidate Rick Perry admitted Sunday that his back surgery had some negative effects on his debate performances.

“I think part of the reason you've seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is that my health is, really both physically and mentally, just really back in the game from the standpoint you have a fusion on your back and it takes you a while to get back on your game,” Texas Governor Perry said in an interview with Iowa Public Television.

The interviewer then asked, “So, were you not feeling good in those early debates?”

Perry replied, “I would suggest to you I was pretty fatigued.”

Perry was leading in the polls in early September, but after several poor debate performances saw a dramatic drop in support. He often seemed tired and fumbled his words, especially toward the end of the debates. Perry's obvious fatigue led the sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” on Sept. 24 to depict Perry, impersonated by Alec Baldwin, falling asleep at the lectern during a debate.

Perry's most memorable debate mistake came on Nov. 9 when he could not remember the third cabinet department he would seek to eliminate as president.

Perry's back surgery was on July 1, just two months before his first debate, on Sept. 7.

In mid-September, a Politico reporter noticed that Perry appeared to be wearing orthopedic shoes. When the reporter asked the Perry campaign if he was wearing special shoes for back pain, a Perry spokesperson said the shoes were not special, just comfortable.

Recovering from back surgery could certainly impact Perry's energy level during the debates, according to Alex Minard, a staff physician at Marietta Memorial Hospital who is board certified in physical rehabilitation, in a Monday interview with The Christian Post.

Standing for two hours, which was required for some debates, would be difficult after back surgery, Minard added. Also, if Perry's job required physical labor, Mindard said he would not be able to return to work for six months, which would be Jan. 1, 2012.

Though Perry described his surgery as a “fusion,” a common procedure, in August news sources revealed that he had undergone an experimental procedure in which adult stem cells were injected into his back.

The next debate will be hosted by Fox News on Thursday.

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