Hernias, hips and a terrible triad are all potential players on "A Porous Line"

The Redskins have a number of free-agent decisions to make this off-season that involve players who were significant contributors to the team last season. There is also a group of players that have questions revolving around their ability to play.

Let's look at two of them that were counted on to be starters last year but had their seasons ruined by injury–Jamaal Brown and Kory Lichtensteiger

Jamaal Brown missed his entire 2009 season with the New Orleans Saints after playing almost all of 2008 with a nagging injury. It appears that this injury was first characterized as a groin injury, and as long as the pain is bearable a player tends to play through it. Evidently an off-season of rest did not resolve the problem and Brown underwent surgery for a sports hernia. This condition should be familiar to Redskins fans; Donovan McNabb underwent surgery for a sports hernia when he was with Philadelphia.

A sports hernia is a tear to one or more of the muscles in the groin, lower abdomen, and hip flexors;unlike a normal hernia, there is no bulge and it can be difficult to diagnose. Normally rest and light rehabilitation will heal the injury if given enough time. In Brown's case, it is possible that playing through the 2008 season caused too much damage, and surgery was required in August of 2009. It was during this surgery that the torn labrum in Brown's hip was discovered and he underwent a second surgery to repair the labrum in September of 2009.

Fast forward to early 2010 and Brown was not progressing as well as New Orleans would have liked, there is mention at that time of a rift growing between Brown and the Saints.… enter the Redskins.

We have now watched Jamaal Brown struggle through two seasons at right tackle for the Redskins; and it is evident that either the hernia or the labrum injury is hampering him. Labrum injuries in the hip joint are just now being recognized through improved imaging techniques, many players who were first described as “just having a groin” may well have suffered more extensive damage… and I think Brown is one of them. Mike Shanahan has stated publicly that Jamaal Brown's future with the Redskins depends on him returning 100% healthy to camp next year.

I think that given all the history going back to the 2008 season, that Brown's return to complete health less than a year from now has to be considered unlikely and the Redskins had better have a plan B.

Other tackles on the roster this season were Sean Locklear, Willie Smith, and Tyler Polumbus– these three seem like more of a plan C. then a plan B. I think it is reasonable to expect that the front office will look for a starting quality tackle either through the draft ( Difficult) through free agency (who?) Or through a trade (again who?).

Kory Lichtensteiger suffered a severe knee injury in the fifth game of the season versus the Eagles; he suffered tears to the ACL, MCL and the patellar meniscus, this injury is called “the terrible triad” by orthopedic surgeons. Other NFL players who have recently suffered the same injury are Dante Culpepper, Adrian Peterson and quarterback Tom Brady.

This is the typical procedure for the repair of a blown knee:

  • Patellar tendon autograft (autograft comes from the patient)
  • Hamstring tendon autograft
  • Quadriceps tendon autograft
  • Allograft (taken from a cadaver) patellar tendon, Achilles tendon, semitendinosus, gracilis, or posterior tibialis tendon

A petellar autograft is performed to the replace damaged ligament.The grafts are inserted through a tunnel that is drilled through the femur and tibia.

Of the three NFL players that have recently undergone this procedure mentioned above, the two quarterbacks have taken at least a year to return to the field. Adrian Peterson suffered his injury late last year and so like Lichtensteiger is early in the rehab process.

Tom Brady's return from the terrible triad is probably the most well-known among football fans. He suffered his injury the first game of the season and was able to play the first game of the following season. Most NFL fans and pundits believe that his first season back from injury showed that he was not completely recovered; he was not playing at a level equal to that previous season or the season after.

Dante Culpepper's return is still ongoing. After suffering the injury with the Minnesota Vikings, he sat out the season and then signed with the Miami Dolphins. It was very obvious that Culpepper was not recovered from his injury as he was largely ineffective at quarterback. Miami released him after one season and he played a partial season for the Oakland Raiders. Although his play was better, he was still not productive enough to retain his starting job with the Raiders. After the one season with Oakland, Culpepper signed with the Detroit Lions, but did not see any playing time after the Lions used their top draft pick on Matthew Stafford.

The only two recent examples of comebacks from the terrible triad both involve quarterbacks, one of whom was never described as very mobile and the other as a large quarterback who could run (Dante Culpepper). In both cases, it took a year (or more) for the players to return and at least two seasons before they were playing at a level previous to the injury.

Medical procedures are always advancing along with rehabilitation techniques and so it remains to be seen whether recovery time from severe knee injuries can be reduced. But even so, I am not so sure that quarterbacks can be compared equally to larger offensive line players.

Many Redskins fans seem to take for granted that Kory will be able to participate in camp and be on the opening day roster; in lieu of his injury and the time that it occurred last season, I find it improbable. NFL fans do not have access to specifics regarding player's medical conditions so it is not meant to be taken as fact, just a comparison of players who have had the same kind of injury.

So, I think the Redskins had better have a plan B. for left guard as well. Maurice Hurt received most of the starting time at left guard, but like Willie Smith should not be counted on as a 16 game starter next year. The only other possibility at left guard on the roster is Cook(Locklear is listed at guard, but probably will not be on the roster next year)

The third question on the line is at left tackle where Trent Williams has yet to play a full season in his first two years due to either injury or suspension. As every Redskins fan knows, Williams is just one failed drug test anyway from a year's suspension.

So it is easy to say that with three question marks on the line, that this is a very unsettled unit that will require significant resources in the off-season. It will be interesting to follow the moves made and the reports from OTA's during the coming off season… I think the effectiveness of the offense will rely on how well the team responds to these challenges.

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