Earlier this week, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote that it was "worth wondering whether [Brandon Marshall's hip] issue...could hamper him in training camp and the preseason." Without much to discuss between June offseason activities and the start of training camp, notes like these -- it was the last of ten entries in Biggs' column -- sometimes take on more significance than they should.
But Biggs is correct. It is "worth wondering" if Marshall will be ready for the start of camp. This is Marshall's third hip surgery since 2009. And, after gaining full medical clearance to return to practice on June 4, Marshall was held out of the majority of Chicago's OTAs and minicamp workouts.
There is little specific information on Marshall's condition, but there's enough available to make some educated guesses.
It has been reported that Marshall had a torn labrum repaired in his left hip in March 2009 and had a clean up procedure on his right hip in May 2010. He recovered from each procedure to have strong seasons (101-1120-10 in 2009, 86-1014-3 in 2010) and has continued to be effective despite feeling "something in his hip" over the past two seasons.
When asked about his most recent arthroscopic procedure in January, Marshall said:
"It's been affecting me for two years," Marshall said. "I thought maybe it was just some training or some strength problems or some flexibility problems. But when we went in there they saw a little something and cleaned it up. After a lot of pounding, it tightened up on me and got a little weak. I'm just thankful that we caught it in time and cleaned it out."
We hear the term "clean up procedure" frequently during the offseason. It's a generic term that can apply to many types of surgeries on almost any area of the body. Most often, it means that a player has had some loose or frayed cartilage removed or a bone spur shaved down. In Marshall's case, his procedure may have involved both.
Orthopedic surgeons are taking a more aggressive approach with patients who have damage to the hip labrum. Surgery is now commonly recommended when there's concern for an impingement syndrome, i.e. part of the top of the thigh bone pinches and damages the labrum. (If you're interested in reading more about hip impingement, FAI for short, you can find a general description here and a discussion of the increase in diagnosis here.)
It wouldn't be surprising if Marshall has now been treated for both impingement and labral damage in each hip. It fits the description he gave. And recovery from both conditions is consistent with what we know of Marshall's rehab program -- he was off crutches within four weeks, running within eight weeks, and cleared for contact in a little over four months.
The news is mostly good for Marshall. Impingement and labral injuries of the hip would hinder him at the most critical points of route running, specifcally limiting his ability to sink his hips and come out of breaks quickly. After playing through some amount of pain very effectively over the past two seasons, Marshall said he felt no pain in his first full workouts before the team shut him down. I think it's more likely that his brief appearance in OTAs was planned and precautionary than evidence that he's had a meaningful setback.
However, while it's reassuring that Marshall's recovery has progressed well, it is notable that Marshall has now had two procedures on the same hip. Chronic labral damage inevitably leads to arthritis. How quickly that damage progresses to arthritis is difficult to determine, but it's possible that Marshall's condition will shorten the back end of his career.
Don't be surprised if the Bears choose to limit Marshall's reps early in camp, as all teams do for star veterans with potentially chronic conditions. Should the Bears take that approach, I'll be watching carefully for evidence that Marshall's rehab schedule was prolonged after minicamp or that he isn't ready for consecutive practices and live action by the third preseason game.
It's watch and wait -- with optimism -- on Marshall until July.
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