Expert: RG3's return date tricky to predict

Expert: RG3's return date tricky to predict
May 21, 2013, 3:45 pm
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A day after Redskins GM Bruce Allen acknowledged that it’s “too early to tell” if Robert Griffin III will be ready at the outset of training camp, a leading orthopedic surgeon said he believes it’s possible the quarterback will be held out a little bit longer – just to be safe.

Dr. Ben Shaffer has heard all of the glowing reports about RG3’s ahead-of-schedule recovery, but he was quick to point out that the combination of an ACL revision – not a first-time reconstruction – along with two other structural repairs inside the knee complicates matters.

“If it was just an ACL, it would probably be six months,” said Shaffer, who has not examined Griffin but has extensive experience with professional athletes, having served as the Capitals’ head team physician since 1999 and Nationals’ team doctor from 2006-2008. “But it’s a revision and a meniscus and an LCL repair, so I would think that they are going add some time to that.”

“Does that take him to the seventh or eighth month timeframe? Probably,” he added. “And that’s presuming his knee looks really good.”

Griffin had surgery on Jan. 9, three days after getting hurt in the Redskins’ 24-14 playoff loss to the Seahawks. If Griffin were to receive medical clearance seven months after surgery, that would put him on the practice field – and able to participate fully – around Aug. 8, the day the Redskins open the preseason at the Titans.

At this point in his recovery, Shaffer said RG3 should be able to do some light running, throwing and drill work, presuming his knee exhibits the following characteristics: no pain or swelling in the joint, normal range of motion, excellent stability, no tenderness and well-developed muscles around the knee.

But, he added, it’s probably still too early for him to be doing any serious cutting and/or planting his leg for throws.

“If he met all of those benchmarks around four months, would I let him throw a ball, start working on his timing and start working on his accuracy and strengthening his upper extremities? Yes I would,” Shaffer said. “But I would not let him drop back to pass. I would not have him out on the field doing throwing drills that involve mobility.”

Shaffer added: “When would you allow him to begin pivoting and cutting? For a first-time ACL reconstruction, that would probably be the six-month mark. It takes a while for the graft to incorporate. With a revision, we would probably wait a little longer.”

Shaffer also said that the Redskins’ medical staff has considerable expertise and experience, and notes that even if RG3 is recovering ahead of schedule, they may elect to be more conservative because this is the second time he's had the ACL operated on. Griffin had the same ACL repaired in 2009 at Baylor.  

“The other factor – and it’s not medical, per say – is you can’t predict what degree of risk you’re assuming in letting someone go back out at six months and seven days days vs. eight months and one day,” he said.  “There’s not perfect science that informs us in our decision-making about when an athlete can be cleared without risk.  We know the ACL revision graft takes a long time to mature.  A lot of it is going to come down to, not only how he looks, but the experience and comfort level of the doctors taking care of him, who may feel inclined to take a more conservative approach to ensure he is as close to 100-percent as possible on his return.”

He continued: “But all of this stuff is off the table if he hasn’t met the criteria of having a painless, full range-of-of motion, non-swollen, strong, functioning knee. So this is a best case scenario.”

Griffin is expected to provide an update on his recovery on Thursday at Redskins Park.