As the NFL Draft nears and the quarterback discussion is running rampant, it's important to remember that the Dallas Cowboys do have an elite passer at the moment. Tony Romo is certainly not in jeopardy of losing his job anytime soon, but there is growing concern about his health having gone through a few back procedures and now three broken left clavicles in his career. Not to mention the dings here and there along his 13-year career but only 10 as the starter.
Out of a possible 160 regular season games that Tony Romo could have played since becoming the starter, he's played in 133. That means he's missed 27 games in his entire career as the QB1 for the Cowboys. That's an average 2.7 missed per year, but also 13.3 per year in which Romo has been your man. If these same statistics were to hold true for just two more seasons, Romo would have played in 159.6 of a possible 192 regular season games, missing 32.4 in his career. Why is 192 the magic number?
Well, 192 regular season games are the exact amount in which Troy Aikman was the signal-caller for the Dallas Cowboys. Now, Aikman never missed the mark of playing in double-digit games in his career with the lowest amount of games played per season being 11 ('89,'98,'00). However, a quick rundown of Aikman's total numbers shows that he played in 149 of a possible 192 games with 43 missed and an average of 12.4 games per season played. Though the 90's were certainly a tougher time on the players, for what it's worth, Mr. Romo edges Aikman by about one more game per season played and about 10 overall if they both end up being 12-year starters. Just an interesting statistic, nothing more, nothing less.
So let's talk about this pesky left clavicle, shall we? Did you know that it's one of the most common injuries in contact sports? When a clavicle breaks, it most commonly breaks in the middle but can also break at either end depending on the fracture. It's also pretty darn painful because it practically renders the affected arm immobile. You also certainly don't want to lift that arm because the broken pieces can grind together and I'll just stop there.
In a lot of cases, such as previously thought for Romo, there is no need to have surgery as long as the bones are not displaced. This usually just requires a sling, ice, anti-inflammatories and a little physical therapy. However, and this is important, it's best for athletes going this route to stay away from contact for 3-4 months. What? I heard it was eight games? Eight weeks is the time-frame in which the range of motion comes back, it doesn't mean it's fully healed. Well, each case is different and I certainly don't want to speculate.
Take the case of Aaron Rodgers two years ago. Our friends at Acme Packing Co. spoke to a Dr. David Geier when the perennial All-Pro went down with the same injury.
On the potential of re-injury should a quarterback come back too soon:
The risk would be that if he gets hit right at the fracture site or has that shoulder driven into the ground, it could basically separate it or displace that fracture worse and either prevent it from healing or making it something that would potentially need surgery.
It heals by laying down essentially new bone around it, and so if you're not really doing anything that risks disrupting that essentially, then that process is going to go on over six to 12 weeks. The problem is that if a football player gets hit there three weeks into it and disrupts all that new healing, he potentially risks starting that process all over again or separating it even further. And then potentially you have to do some kind of surgery and line it up and hold it in place with a plate and screws or something like that.
After spending an afternoon examining and reading as many articles as I could, it became clear that there is a bit more to this story than we may know. I certainly am not saying that the Cowboys withheld information or anything like that but Romo most likely should have got surgery a while back. Perhaps the best time would have been right after the second break, but, like any smart being, Romo wanted to weigh those options. So, if folks are out there thinking he doesn't care about life after football, that's proverbial nonsense. He apparently does a lot, which is why he's always got a very informed way of talking to the media.
Upon that second break, it's likely that he may have had a displacement which makes the surgery a lot more necessary. In fact, according to a recent study by Dr. Michael P. Hoenig, of Orthopaedic Associates, he found that athletes that had the plate fixation surgery healed faster and stronger than those that decided on no surgery. Romo seems to be leaning this way versus the Mumford procedure, which would shave a side of his clavicle down. Both are very successful methods, it's just that the plate seems to add a little more protection for the quarterback.
Some guys choose to have the surgery and others don't. It really just depends on the guy. In 2011, Jason Campbell elected to have the surgery in Week 7 but remained out for the year as a precaution. However, though he was a backup, he returned to action before retiring in 2015. It's noteworthy that the Colts tried to lure him out, but he stayed retired. Matt Leinart had the same injury in 2011 and elected to have the surgery. Primarily a backup himself, his injury was in Week 12, so he decided to wait until his offseason program. Unfortunately for Leinart, he played a few more seasons, but everyone knows he was nothing more than a backup. Not too many elite athletes have had the surgery, especially in the NFL. It should be noted that Oscar Moller of the L.A. Kings had the surgery and returned to elite play.
It seemingly likely that since this is the third break for Romo, he wants to stabilize his clavicle in order to avoid this type of injury for the rest of his career. That makes surgery the right answer and should only take 6-8 weeks maximum out of his offseason. As much information that I have digested today, nothing changes the mindset that Tony Romo won't be playing at a high-level for some time. Injuries are a part of the game and certainly Romo's had some unfortunate luck as of late, but a clavicle injury is hardly going to be the way it ends.
Tony Romo is going to make a full recovery and will be the starter in 2016 and hopefully a lot longer than that. As fans, we all just worry about him and how much more he can keep giving his team. As fiery a competitor as he is, my guess would be a heck of a lot more than we think. It's okay to be concerned with the aging Cowboy, but his back seems to be getting stronger than ever and that was way more of a scary thought. There is no reason to believe that Romo can't have a Peyton Manning or a John Elway-type ending. It would certainly be fitting, he is most definitely due for some redemption and a streak of better luck.