Just How Fucked Is Jadeveon Clowney’s Career Now That He’s Undergone Microfracture Surgery?
Jadeveon Clowney's disappointing rookie season is over. The first overall pick in this year's draft had microfracture surgery on his right knee on Monday, which is expected to keep him out for nine months. This procedure comes after Clowney started his year with a sports hernia, a concussion, a torn meniscus and articular cartilage damage. He's 21 years old and his career might be fucked already.
This first-season run of injuries was already a bad sign, but microfracture surgery is the ultimate question mark. Let Yahoo's Eric Adelson explain it in laymen's terms:
The procedure is called "microfracture" because an awl is used to poke holes in the bone surrounding the knee. These tiny punctures are meant to stimulate blood flow to repair torn cartilage in the area. This has to be done because the human body doesn't regenerate cartilage on its own. So the blood brought in by the microfracture surgery can ideally latch on to the injured area and help protect the bone.
Jablonski compared the missing or torn knee cartilage to a pothole, and the microfracture surgery can fill it with the equivalent of sand.
The idea of pouring sand into an explosive outside linebacker's knee sounds tenuous at best. Of course, they wouldn't perform the surgery if they didn't think it was the right thing for Clowney, but for every high-level athlete that's had the surgery and come back to play at a high level (Jason Kidd, Dan Marino, Matt Kemp) there are many who were never the same (Greg Oden, Penny Hardaway, Jeff Clement).
The lingering effects of microfracture surgery on NFL players is tough to predict. This Football Outsiders article from 2007 notes several things:
-It's rare for non-established starters to successfully return from this surgery. Does Clowney count as an established starter at this point? Not really, but he'll have more impetus to return to form than a bench-warmer.
-Some of the most successful NFL comebacks were by players who had the surgery early in their careers -- Marino and Ron Woodson are the examples given.
-Long careers are not the norm after returning from surgery.
And this quote from a Sporting News article that essentially says Greg Oden should be the last NBA player to get mcirofracture surgery doesn't give us a very optimistic outlook:
“Microfracture surgery, we call those salvage procedures,” said Dr. Timothy Hewett of Ohio State’s Sports Health and Performance Institute. “Cartilage holds a lot of water and, in that sense, it is a great shock absorber. Fibrocartilage or scar tissue does not do that, it does not dissipate the force as well. … Microfracture had its day, and in some situations it is still relevant.
"But with high-level athletes, returning to their sport, these guys have high body mass, they are landing in the range of four to 10 times their body weight—fibrocartilage, the scar cartilage, is not going to hold up in that situation.”
Basically: We shouldn't expect Jadeveon Clowney to live up to the hype that he had coming out of South Carolina at this point. If he does, great -- but that's a long-shot. Our expectations of what he can accomplish must now be lowered significantly. If he can come back and be a solid contributor for an improving Texans team for four or five years, the team should count itself lucky. If he becomes the Pro Bowler we thought he'd be, Houston dodged a bullet. But dodging bullets is harder than the movies make it look.
Clowney's career fucked factor: 7 fucks out of 10.
Photo via Getty