Although many athletes today are big and strong and could likely have been bodyguards themselves if not for their athletic skill, many of them need a team of bodyguards to protect them from harm. Unfortunately we live in a world where athletes have various threats to their personal safety. When it comes to bodyguards most people envision these huge figures dressed in black with mean faces as they surround the star athlete. I have a completely different vision when I think of bodyguards. I am not impressed by how big, strong, and mean a bodyguard may look. I am much more concerned with the bodyguard’s ability to do the job. A good team of bodyguards provide layers of physical protection as well as tactical protection. Many times the big muscular bodyguard is in the front, while the next layers of protection are more dependent on being tactful and strategic with their protection.
Last season, Andrew Luck found out the hard way that bodyguards are very important. Luck suffered multiple injuries during an incident in which his bodyguards failed him. The incident just happened to take place on the football field and the bodyguards in question are not likely the kind you were imagining.
If you take a careful look at the functions of many of your soft tissue body parts; many of them serve as bodyguards to bones, joints, and internal organs. Andrew Luck’s bodyguard’s failed on all three of these fronts last year as he went down with a lacerated kidney, an abdominal tear, torn rib cartilage and a subluxation of his right shoulder. For every motion and every impact during a football game, there are bodyguard’s responsible for protecting the underlying structures from being injured. Simply stated, if you have well-developed muscles and healthy ligaments, your joints, bones, and internal organs are typically well protected. Physics teaches us that we can’t get rid of force, but that we can only make sure that we transfer force from one mass to another. In the case of our bodies we want excess force to be placed on our bodyguards which are primarily our muscles and ligaments, which are built to take on force, rather than our joints and bones which deteriorate or fracture upon taking too much force.
When using Injury Science to study Andrew Luck’s outlook for this upcoming season, I immediately threw out the lacerated kidney injury and even the rib injuries that he suffered last year. A lacerated kidney is not unheard of but is somewhat of an anomaly of an injury, even for the football field. This type of injury to an internal organ is unlikely to repeat, and is more of an injury you might see in a car accident or worse. As for the rib injury, Luck has had more than enough time for this to heal, and this injury does not lend itself to many long-term concerns. The abdominal tear worries me a little as I have a great amount of respect for injuries to the core. Despite the constant focus you hear about quarterbacks having strong arms, the arm is only the messenger that releases the ball. Throwing a football greatly relies on the legs and the core to create velocity, distance, and even accuracy. In my experience, abdominal tears and strains have a greater tendency to linger and repetitive throwing and getting hit won’t help the matter. Even with my feeling on the abdominal injury, I would not consider this a yellow flag in regard to taking Luck as my number one QB. Luck has time and youth on his side and should have been able to rest enough this offseason to assure that there will be no lingering abdominal issues.
The most concerning injury to consider if drafting Andrew Luck is the reported right shoulder subluxation that he suffered last year. Shoulder subluxation is a fancy way of describing shoulder instability. With the shoulder being one of the most freely moving joints, their can be a fine line between normal shoulder movement and instability. What complicates this more is that there are so many structures responsible for stabilizing the shoulder, it makes it very difficult to give a prognosis for what Andrew Luck may be dealing with from afar. In essence, there are so many bodyguards involved at the shoulder joint that if someones messes up it is hard to pinpoint who messed up. Luck’s shoulder could suffer subluxation in any direction including forward, backward, up, or down; and the structures that may be weak or dysfunctional to allow this excess movement are many. Only those close to Andrew Luck’s rehab process will know exactly what is going on and be able to speak to his exact dysfunction. Similar to other injuries, the outcome of an injury like this can be layered as a subluxation can threaten a tear of the labrum which would likely take Andrew Luck out for a season if it were severe and required surgery; subluxation could threaten muscle strains and tears that could become chronic and cause frequent short-term rehab stints; subluxation can also compromise the ligaments around the joint which may lead to abnormal movements and a multitude of inflammatory issues to arise in the shoulder. The possibilities are countless with this injury but the only way to know is to be Andrew Luck’s personal physician, therapist, or someone with access to his medical records.
So now that I have told you what I don’t know, I will tell you what I think. Andrew Luck is too young and has too many resources to have this type of injury serve as limiter of his production. The same factors that make this a difficult injury to assess from afar, also make it an easy one to speculate on from a rehab approach. The shoulder joint has so many stabilizers that typically if one structure is weak or injured you have the option of rehabilitating that structure or focusing on shifting that structures role to another tissue. The rotator cuff group which is a major shoulder stabilizing group is a prime example. I often have patients with diagnosed rotator cuff tears in one of the four rotator cuff muscles, regain full function by relying on the other three rotator cuff muscles along with some help from surface muscles like the chest and shoulder muscles. The point is that there are so many options and ways that Andrew Luck can come into this season with his throwing arm at 100 percent. As for his long-term outlook with the upcoming season and beyond, I actually feel like last season may have been the blessing that Luck and the Indianapolis Colts needed. I doubt that Luck will have the reckless abandon that he has shown in the past and I doubt that the Colts will continue to play in a manner that puts their franchise quarterback at such a high risk, now that they know that he is not invincible. I fully expect that the rehab team will have Andrew Luck’s intrinsic bodyguards (his muscles and ligaments) in better shape; and the Indianapolis Colts will have his extrinsic bodyguards (his lineman and other teammates) in better shape. With this improvement in both areas, I believe that Luck and his fantasy owners should be in for a good season.
In the end, I am strongly considering taking Andrew Luck as my quarterback and feel confident that I will get him for 16 games.