Percy Harvin Debating Surgery for Labral Tear

Will Harvin choose surgery or not? How soon could he return?

Practice notes usually move the needle the most during the first days of training camp. Not this season. The intake physical exam as players enter camp is driving the news cycle. Some players (Trent Richardson, Robert Griffin III) are making news for staying off the Active / PUP list. Others (Arian Foster, Jonathan Stewart) are making news for starting camp on the list.

The biggest PUP-related story of the week broke Thursday afternoon. Percy Harvin has a "slight" labral tear in his hip and is deciding whether or not to have surgery that could sideline him for many weeks.

Reports vary on the signficance of Harvin's injury, whether or not the Seattle medical staff has recommended surgery, and how long surgery could keep Harvin sidelined. Ian Rapoport and others are reporting that the team has not recommended surgery and no decision has been made yet. Jason LaCanfora is reporting that the team has recommended surgery and that any procedure is likely to be season-ending.

It's very early in the process, but don't be surprised if Harvin chooses surgery.

Harvin has often been very involved and knowledgeable about his medical conditions. He sought multiple opinions when migraines limited him in the past, trying multiple medications and dietary changes before finding a regimen that was successful for him. He was very specific about his ligament injury late last season while rehabbing a significant ankle injury. I think it's likely that he'll pursue a second opinion from the surgeon most professional athletes see for hip related issues. That's Dr. Marc Philippon, who often recommends surgical intervention for these conditions. It may be hard for Harvin to go against such a recommendation.

Having a "slight" tear may not mean a lesser surgical procedure. Unlike meniscal injuries to the knee, the trend has been to stitch all labral tears back together rather than shaving or smoothing them down. Such a repair can be done arthroscopically, but rehabbing any hip surgery takes time.

Most rehab protocols for hip arthroscopy suggest sport-specific activity can begin around 9-12 weeks after surgery. The rest of the rehab is then open-ended. Essentially, the player is ready when he's ready. That could be 12 weeks, 16 weeks, or much longer. Elite athletes may hit the more optimistic end of the timetable, but 12-16 weeks may be a reasonable expectation -- if there are no unexpected findings during surgery and no complications during rehab.

So, a 3-4 month return is probably the sweet spot for Harvin if he chooses surgery. If Harvin has the surgery soon, that makes a late November return possible. Should Harvin elect to try to play through the injury but be unsuccessful and need surgery later, he risks missing critical weeks late in the season. For Harvin and the Seahawks, a team expected to make a deep playoff run, that may be a risk they're unwilling to take.

There is an optimistic counterpoint, however. Osi Umenyiora decided to play in 2010 after an offseason recommendation by Dr. Philippon to fix a hip labral tear. He played 16 games and had 13 sacks. Brandon Marshall has fought through hip impingement symptoms in both hips over the past three seasons and very likely played through a hip labrum tear for part of 2008 before having the first of his three hip surgeries. Marshall has been consistently effective over that time period.

Whether Harvin's outcome would be as good is impossible to say. It's an injury that will affect his route running, particularly sinking his hips and coming out of breaks, and change of direction ability. Both are critical to his style of play and effectiveness.

Harvin's second opinion will reportedly happen early next week. Expect a decision quickly. I'll have more on the blog as we get more information on the extent of the injury, type of surgery, and expected rehab timeline.

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