In a span of a month, New York Jets wide receiver, Eric Decker, has undergone two surgeries that will sideline him well into the off-season. This article will be an overview of both of the procedures and his timeline for recovery.
What are the procedures?
In mid October, Decker underwent a procedure to fix a torn labrum in his hip while undergoing a rotator cuff repair in November. A labrum is cartilage that is in the socket of your shoulders and hips that serves to deepen the socket for stability of the joint and increase the surface area of the hip socket to distribute the amount of pressure it absorbs from walking/running. The aceteabular labrum is located in the anterior (front) portion of the hip capsule and is commonly injured when the hip is flexed (bent) and and rotated. In sports, this means the hip labrum was torn while performing a pivot/twisting motion. Decker likely underwent an arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum. This means that small holes were made in your body and cameras were sent inside the hole to provide a view of the tear; after it has been spotted, doctors will sew the labrum back together with a suture and finish up the procedure.
It is possible that Decker went through another arthroscopic procedure to repair the torn rotator cuff (depending on the severity of the tear, it could be another procedure). The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that work together to stabilize the humerus (arm bone) in the glenoid fossa (arm socket) during movement. Individually, the muscle(s) can abduct (moves away from the middle of the body), internally rotate (turns towards the body) or externally rotate the shoulder (turn away from the body). There are several ways to tear a rotator cuff, thus there is not a common mechanism of injury.
When will Decker be ready for football?
Hip labral surgery takes about 3-4 months for full rehabilitation. Surgery is not always required however doctors elected to do in this case likely to minimize chances of re-injury and the severity of the tear. Crutches are not always given to patients following this procedure but can be used depending pain levels and gait mechanics. Nevertheless, the surgically repaired labrum has to be protected for about 4-6 weeks before starting any advanced strength training and sports-related activities. In that time frame, rehab will focus on improving the strength of the hips and the core as well as maintaining flexibility of the muscles in that area. Decker had shoulder surgery at the 4 week mark after the hip surgery indicating that the labrum is healing well. As he is recovering from the shoulder surgery, Decker can now move forward with his hip rehabilitation by focusing on balance and mechanics of general movement patterns (i.e. squats, lunges, etc.). Exercise selection at this stage will be tricky because he cannot use his arms for progressions of these exercises and he does not want to aggravate his hip or his shoulder.
On the other hand, rotator cuff repairs take at least 6 months for full recovery. Decker will be in a sling for 4-6 weeks to assure appropriate tissue healing. In that time, physical therapists will work on his posture and moving that arm passively (meaning they will do it for him) to facilitate increased range of motion. Decker will not be allowed to move his arm on his own until the 12 week mark. Strengthening of that shoulder begins around the 6 week mark where isometric exercises (using the muscle without moving it) start and slowly/gradually progress to light exercises that require moving the shoulder (at 12 weeks). After full active range of motion is restored, the patient can then begin strengthening that shoulder using light weights and progressing back to using heavy lifting equipment (i.e. dumbbells, kettlebells). At this point, Decker’s hip should be fully healed and the shoulder is healed enough that he can perform cardiovascular activities like running.
Ultimately at the 6 month mark, the shoulder is fully healed to begin sports-related activities such as lifting heavy weights, working on agility and power, and taking hits from a defender. Assuming no setbacks during the hip and shoulder recovery, Decker should be available for OTAs in the middle of the summer.