Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III may need as long as a year to recover from surgery on his right knee, according to a sports surgeon who’s not involved in the rookie’s case.
The Washington Post said Griffin is having surgery today to repair a torn lateral collateral ligament and possible damage to the anterior cruciate ligament. Griffin left the team’s 24-14 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 6 with the injury.
The 22-year-old may return to full form as early as the middle of the 2013 National Football League season, according to Alexis Chiang Colvin, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
A damaged LCL requires more surgery and recovery time than the more common ACL tears, Colvin said today in a telephone interview. The ACL can be repaired arthroscopically with small incisions, while LCL surgery requires a larger incision and more bone holes.
“The LCL stabilizes the outer part of the leg and if you don’t repair that, the ACL will fail,” Colvin said. “Any time you have to make a bigger incision, it takes longer to heal.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has scheduled a news conference for today. Team spokesman Tony Wyllie didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the newspaper report.
Griffin’s initial MRI tests on Jan. 7 were inconclusive due to prior injuries, according to Shanahan, and he received a second opinion and more tests from orthopedic surgeon James Andrews the following day.
Andrews, who was on the Redskins’ sideline for the Seahawks game, determined that Griffin has torn his LCL and possibly damaged his ACL, the Post said, citing an unidentified person familiar with the quarterback’s condition.
This morning on his Twitter account, Griffin thanked his family, team and fans for their support.
“See you guys next season,” he said.
Injuries in which an LCL is torn are usually accompanied by a tear to one of the cruciate ligaments, either ACL or posterior, according to Colvin. She said that while an isolated ACL tear can take as little as six months recovery, Griffin’s may take around a year.
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings tore his ACL in December 2011 and returned for the first game of the 2012 season, less than nine months later. He played in every game this season and led the NFL in rushing, falling nine yards short of the season record.
“My guess would be that Griffin could return some time midseason next year,” Colvin said. “You can say what it is initially, but you don’t really know until he starts doing physical therapy and progressing along.”
Griffin led the Redskins this season to their first National Football Conference East title since 1999. He threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,200 yards, and rushed for 815 yards and another seven scores.
While it is possible that Griffin may permanently lose some of the speed or mobility that made him a dual threat, it is more likely that he returns to full form, according to Colvin. She said he will benefit from the fact that he is young, in good shape and has a team of doctors and therapists to aid his recovery.
Griffin, who wore a brace on his right knee for several weeks prior to the playoffs, limped through much of the Seahawks game after hurting the leg in the first quarter. He was assisted off the field with six minutes remaining after his knee buckled when he tried to grab a low snap, and didn’t return to action.
The injury sparked debate around the league as to how long he should have remained in the game. Shanahan said following the game that he considered removing Griffin in the first quarter and decided against it after speaking with the quarterback and team doctors, including Andrews. The coach affirmed that judgment in a news conference on Jan. 7.
“You don’t make decisions by yourself, you get a lot of opinions during the game, especially with a guy like Robert,” Shanahan said. “Not only talking to him, but talking to the doctors, and then you go with what you think is right.”
Griffin originally sprained his knee during a Dec. 9 win against the Baltimore Ravens and sat out the following week’s game in Cleveland. He has acknowledged that he put himself at more risk by starting the game against the Seahawks.
“Every time you step on the football field, you’re putting your life, your career, every single ligament in your body in jeopardy,” he told reporters. “That’s just the approach I had to take. My teammates needed me out there, so I was out there for them.”
Griffin tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the third game of Baylor University’s 2009 college football season. He returned to the team the following season and in 2011 won the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s top college player.