What Are the Biggest Medical Red Flags Heading into NFL Training Camps?

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2012

What Are the Biggest Medical Red Flags Heading into NFL Training Camps?

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    The NFL has recently been compared to gladiators going up against one another in the battlefields of Ancient Rome. While that might be a little bit of a stretch, I can understand the comparison to an extent.

    Players have gotten stronger and the advancement in equipment just hasn't been able to catch up throughout the last decade or so. With this comes more serious injuries from players on the football field. These injuries are even more magnified with the trend towards social media around the world. We find about about a player's condition immediately after he is carted or helped off the field. This wasn't the case just 20 years ago.

    The 2012 season is going to begin with a whole bevy of different players suffering through and attempting to recover from serious injuries. Can Adrian Peterson perform on his reconstructed left knee? Will Peyton Manning ever be the same after multiple neck surgeries?

    This article is going to focus on six different players that have medical red flags heading into training camp later this month. I am going to focus on what their long-term prognosis is on the football field and the type of injuries they have had to suffer through.

Matt Schaub, Quarterback, Houston Texans

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    2011 wasn't the first bout with injuries for Matt Schaub during his five-year career with the Houston Texans. The quarterback has missed a total of 16 games during that span.

    In 2007, Schaub missed five games due to a concussion and separated shoulder. While these two injuries are not big deals, especially five years later, they are still worth mentioning.

    In 2008, Schaub missed another five games with a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee. This is a more serious injury than the ones the quarterback suffered a year before and plays right into his most recent injury in 2011.

    Last season Schaub suffered a Lisfranc injury to the mid-section of his left foot. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the long-term prognosis for this type of injury is as follows:

    Some athletes never return to their pre-injury levels of sport after these injuries. Despite excellent surgical reduction and fixation, arthritis may occur from the damage to the cartilage. This may result in chronic pain and may require fusion in the future.

    Not a great sign for Houston Texans fans hoping for Schaub to return at full health in 2012. Time will tell.

Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver, New York Giants

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    Hakeem Nicks has only missed a total of six games in his first three seasons, but nagging injuries seem to have held him back throughout that span.

    None of his minor injuries and pains throughout those first three seasons compare to what happened in May. Nicks, the New York Giants' No. 1 receiver, broke his right foot and will miss at least some of training camp.

    The major issues as it relates to Nicks is his ability to recover from the surgery and make in impact out of the gate for the Giants. Considering that New York lost Mario Manningham in free agency and were already relying on rookie Rueben Randle to contribute, they need to get Nicks back at full strength.


Sidney Rice, Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks

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    When Sidney Rice had hip surgery prior to the start of the 2010 season, there were a ton of Minnesota Vikings fans that were in utter loathing mode. After all, the talented receiver was coming off a Pro Bowl 2009 campaign and looked to be finding his groove with future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.

    The hip, which was originally injured during the 2009 NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints (insert Bountygate pun here), took a while to heal.

    After signing with the Seattle Seahawks prior to last season there was hope Rice could leave that devastating injury behind him.

    It didn't happen.

    The talented receiver missed another seven games. He dealt with a torn labrum early in the season and had to be placed on injured reserve in November due to various knee issues.

    This combination of different injuries has to be alarming to the Seahawks' brass moving forward. I am working under the assumption this is the reason they shut him down last year.

    At just 25 years old, Rice still has a chance to regain the form that made him a Pro Bowl performer in 2009. It is all about him staying healthy and being a consistent contributor on the field. As it stands, those two things go hand in hand.

Jahvid Best, Running Back, Detroit Lions

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    There has been a lot made about concussions in recent months. The Junior Seau suicide as well as a lawsuit filed by ex-NFL players against the league have played into the commotion.

    Make no mistake about it: These are real issues that have to be dealt with around the league if it is going to be sustainable in the future.

    These issues are only magnified when smaller players take the field and get hit on a consistent basis. Jahvid Best is the most recent example.

    The former Cal standout was having a fine season with the Detroit Lions in 2011 when he ran into a stout San Francisco 49ers defense during an October game. The result was a severe concussion that saw him miss the final 10 games of the season.

    After Best's third concussion in as many seasons, the Detroit Lions' medical staff refused to clear him for action throughout the remaining three months of 2011. Long-term effects of the concussion and Best's ability to recover short-term most likely played into that decision.

    Another hard hit, awkward contact with the turf in Detroit, or freak blow to the head could lead to the end of a once-promising career.

    This is important to take into account when looking at the Lions' running game heading into 2012. It is also important to take into account when looking at Best's long-term prognosis after football.

Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings

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    Adrian Peterson has been a durable running back since he joined the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2007 season. The former Pro Bowl running back has rushed the ball more than 1,400 times in five NFL seasons for an average of 280 attempts per season.

    Then came Christmas Eve 2011 against the Washington Redskins when Peterson landed awkwardly on his left knee. As bad as the injury looked live, it was much worst after tests were performed. As it is, Peterson tore both his left medial collateral ligament (ACL) and anterior cruciate ligament (MCL)—one of the most devastating injuries that a running back, or any NFL player for that matter, could go through.

    After an extensive rehab process, it appears Peterson isn't fully ready to go and will start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP).

    Despite great advancements in technology this is still a major issue. Nearly Peterson's entire left knee had to be reconstructed, which requires a great deal of physical rehab.

    There is no telling when Peterson will be at full strength. One thing is for sure: When the talented running back does return in 2012, he will probably still have a myriad of different kinks to work out in regards to that left knee.

    It is just hard to imagine Peterson returning to pre-injury form in 2012.

Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos

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    The inclusion of Peyton Manning to this list shouldn't come as much of a surprise. When a 36-year-old quarterback misses an entire season due to multiple neck surgeries, it is going to come out that he should be considered a "medical" red flag.

    When that quarterback is a future Hall of Fame such as Manning is, this is only going to be magnified further.

    While there is a lot of ambiguity in regards to the neck fusion surgeries that have been conducted on Manning, I decided to refer to a prominent source for more information.

    His latest surgery is reported to be a "one-level cervical neck fusion."

    Manning, who is reported to have had three fusion surgeries over a 19-month period, would be the only known quarterback to ever come back from such an injury. That being said, it was the only option Manning had if he wanted to return to the football field.

    When Manning narrowed his search down to three teams, the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, the medical staffs for each team seemed to give the go-ahead for the team to sign him. In reality, that is probably the best set of news for anyone expecting Manning to return to full health in 2012.