As of this morning, the career of one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the national football league (NFL) is in limbo. As many football fans know, Robert Griffin III, the rookie phenom quarterback for the Washington Redskins, underwent reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ACL and LCL in his right knee Wednesday morning. Given Griffin’s reliance on his speed and agility as a running quarterback, the outcome of this surgery and eventual recovery will dictate the effectiveness and longevity of his football career.
The timetable for the recovery is expected to be 6 to 8 months, which would make Griffin eligible for the start of the 2013 NFL season next fall. The Redskins have already setup a rehabilitation program focusing on strengthening Griffin’s right quad. The extra size and strength allows for maintenance of knee stability, even while being routinely tackled during an NFL game.
However, even if Griffin is able to return to full health, there are several aspects dealing with both his personal decision-making and coaching management that need to be addressed to avoid a similar injury in the future. Griffin has a history of injury, most likely due to his style of play as a quarterback. In 2009, Griffin suffered his first major injury, a torn ACL in his right knee during a game in his sophomore season at Baylor University. At the time of the injury though, Griffin said he felt fine and soon returned to action to finish the game. Although he sat out the rest of the season after reconstructive surgery on the knee, he was able to return to action the following year. Fast-forward to the end of the 2012 NFL regular season and the Redskins were able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, due in large to Griffin’s outstanding play. Even though Griffin suffered a mild LCL sprain only a month prior to the game, there was no question that he would start the game. Even after the injury was aggravated after being tackled towards the end of the first quarter, Griffin remained in the game despite being clearly hampered by the injury. The tear of his ACL and LCL occurred when Griffin was sacked in the fourth quarter, which forced him out of the game.
The head coach of the Redskins, Mike Shanahan, has received a lot of the blame for leaving Griffin in the game when he was clearly not stable on his legs after the first quarter. It was shortsighted of him to risk the career of a rookie quarterback on one playoff game, when a healthy Griffin could realistically lead the team to playoff games for the next decade. However, I believe blame should also be placed on Griffin himself, as he was adamant about staying in the playoff game even after reinjuring his knee. This instance highlights specifically when it is not a good decision to just “play through the pain,” as the expression goes. Given Griffin’s history of trying to stay in games even after he has sustained major injuries, he needs to perform a better assessment of when he should and should not play. Over the first days of class, we have discussed the idea of “mind over matter” as a way to excel in a sporting activity, but there is a point at which an individual needs to realize pushing themselves further will only exacerbate an injury. Putting a greater focus on consciously listening to his body and how it is performing would allow Griffin to make decisions that are better not only for his career, but also for his personal health. Honest communication between coaches and players can be difficult due to stubbornness on both ends, but without an adjustment to the current relationship of Griffin and Coach Shanahan, the quarterback’s potential will be significantly hampered by continual injuries.