Breaking Down Adrian Peterson's Past, Recent Groin Injuries and Surgeries

Dave Siebert, M.D.@DaveMSiebertFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) finds running room from the line of scrimmage during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

A groin injury bothered Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson during the 2013 NFL season, and according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, the superstar recently underwent surgery to address the issue.

On Thursday, Gantt reported—via an official Vikings statement—that Dr. William Meyers of the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia "was able to successfully repair (Peterson's) adductor muscle while also doing a compartmental release." He adds that the Vikings expect a rehabilitation time in the neighborhood of six weeks.

More than likely, the operation represents a hopefully definitive solution for a problem that has nagged at Peterson on and off for some time. It also somewhat resembles the sports hernia surgery that limited him in 2012—if one can call falling nine yards short of the single-season rushing record being "limited."

Fortunately, given the nature of the likely procedure in question, there is no reason to expect anything less than a full recovery.

In fact, he may even run better than before.

Peterson's 2012 Sports Hernia

In early 2013, the Vikings announced that Dr. Meyers—the same Dr. Meyers as this year—repaired an abdominal core injury that AP sustained at some point earlier that season. This "sports hernia"—a catch-all term for any number of causes of chronic groin pain in athletes—almost certainly involved a lower portion of a muscle near the groin.

Presumably, at some point in the 2012 season, a forceful twist or fall stretched the muscle in question beyond its capacity, causing a tear. As it is very difficult to fully rest an abdominal muscle—athletes use them to twist, bend or forcefully exhale countless times per game—the injury could not heal on its own during the season.

Instead, Peterson elected to play through the pain.

Once the running back had a chance to rest at the end of the year, Dr. Meyers surgically augmented the healing process, thereby providing additional support to the injured muscle. It could then definitively heal, alleviating the inflammation and pain that built up over the season.

Peterson's 2014 Adductor Muscle Injury

In 2014, one of Peterson's hip adductor muscles flared up. Hip adductors attach the inside of the femur—or thigh bone—to the bottom of the pelvis, serving to pull the leg inward toward the body's midline.

Several muscles—such as the adductors longus, brevis and magnus—adduct the leg.
Several muscles—such as the adductors longus, brevis and magnus—adduct the leg.Wikimedia Commons

According to Dr. Luga Podesta—a sports medicine specialist out of the renowned Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in California—AP probably suffered an adductor strain during the 2013 season.

"He must have done it during the season and played through it," Podesta explained. Indeed, the superstar running back showed up on the official Vikings injury report with a groin injury as far back as Week 11.

It's also possible he wore down his tendon over time in a chronic fashion, but only first noticed the pain that week.

Then again, it may relate to the 2012 injury after all. Only Meyers and his medical staff truly know.

Either way, the details of the surgery remain unclear despite the official Vikings statement. That said, Podesta clarified two potential scenarios.

The first possibility involves Meyers repairing a frayed or torn muscle tendon, suggesting the reattachment or securing of two partially or completely separated ends followed by the removal of any scar tissue that exists in the area. The end result of such a process is reduced pain and inflammation due to the injury.

The second possibility, a "hip adductor release," could eliminate the problem altogether.

During a release procedure, a surgeon cuts the injured tendon, effectively eliminating the chronically painful injury/re-injury cycle by completing the tear outright. The tendon retracts, and the inflammation recedes.

However, a release procedure comes at a price.

"You lose control of the tendon and the muscle's pulling ability," Podesta warned.

In other words, pain decreases—but so, at least temporarily, does strength.

Bottom Line

On the one hand, a surgical repair of an injured tendon—along with scar tissue removal—should allow AP's body's healing process to catch up with the demand he places on the muscle.

On the other, a tendon release would short-circuit the inflammation process—though admittedly at the cost of one of several adductor muscles' function. Nevertheless, after sufficient rest and a successful rehabilitation—something for which Peterson has demonstrated his aptitude multiple times in the past—the Vikings standout can regain any such deficit.

Either way, barring new developments or complications, Vikings fans can expect their superstar to be ready for action well in advance of 2014's first preseason activities.

Dr. Dave Siebert is a resident physician at the University of Washington who plans to pursue fellowship training in Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.


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