News broke on Thursday morning that new Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin was not only going to be unable to practice, but, according to Ian Rapaport of NFL.com, he was dealing with what the team believes may be a serious hip injury.
Harvin, acquired during the offseason and supposed to be one of the team's top offensive weapons, was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and is headed for a second opinion.
The condition is believed to be a small tear in the acetabular labrum, the connective tissue in between the bony cup of the pelvis and the head of the femur, the large bone of the upper leg. This condition is often caused by an impingement, where the head of the femur grinds into the labrum, causing small tears.
Sources within the medical community tell me that the second opinion is likely to be with Dr. Marc Philippon, an orthopedic surgeon with the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. The question now is whether Dr. Philippon can adjust his schedule to get Harvin in quickly. [UPDATE: Harvin will head to Dr. Bryan Kelly after Dr. Philippon could not accomodate the quick scheduling. Kelly is another top surgeon and has published research in conjunction with Dr. Philippon.]
That indicates that the team and Harvin likely believe that surgery will be necessary. Philippon is one of the top hip surgeons in the country and has extensive experience dealing with this in athletes.
Other athletes have had this type of surgery and returned, but few are the type of speed-reliant player that Harvin is. Ed Reed is currently on the PUP list while he recovers from May hip surgery. Kurt Warner also had this type of surgery.
Dr. David Geier, a top orthopedic surgeon, made it clear that this can be a very serious condition. Via email, he told me:
Labral surgeries can involve one of two procedures. If the labrum is just frayed or beaten up, the surgeon can use a shaver to simply smooth it out. The recovery time from that debridement surgery is usually six to eight weeks.
If the damage is worse, Geier says the recovery can be much longer:
If the labrum is torn and pulled off the socket in the hip, then the surgeon reattaches it with anchors. The labral repair has to heal, so the athlete has to proceed slowly with hip motion and weightbearing [sic] before returning to jog and play sports. That return to play process can take four to six months.
Reed's surgery was of the less severe type, but at the 12-week mark, he is not yet ready to practice.
While the "normal" recovery time is less, it is difficult to say exactly what was done in the procedure. It does highlight that even the so-called best-case scenario for Harvin may be well below what the Seahawks can expect. (Reed also had surgery at Steadman, and it is believed that Dr. Philippon performed that procedure, as he did Reed's previous hip surgery in 2010.)
If Harvin were to have surgery early next week, the quickest likely return would be somewhere between Week 2 and Week 4. Given this timeline, it's likely that Harvin would start the season on the PUP list, which would cost him at least the first six weeks of the season and allow a more conservative rehab.
If the surgery is more involved, Harvin could miss the entire season.
The Seahawks will try to adjust, giving Sidney Rice and Golden Tate more looks, as well as opening up competition for the No. 3 WR slot while Harvin is out.