On Marcus Tubbs

I thought it worthwhile to post a brief compendium of Tubbs' injuries. It’s that time of year when speculation is rampant, so instead of discussing Tubbs’ size or his lonely days in the weight room, I thought it better to stick to facts. Here’s where we stand.

Bumps and Bruises

2004

Before his injuries turned to the severe, Tubbs suffered his share of nagging, minor injuries. Tubbs first appeared on the injury report September 8th of 2004, his rookie season. Strike one was a hamstring. He appeared in weeks 2-10 and then started weeks 11-13. In week 13, in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter, Tubbs was carted off the field with an ankle injury. In the subsequent drive, Julius Jones rushed for 44 yards on 4 carries, including the game winning touchdown on a draw play. This was the first hint at the "Tubbs Effect". Tubbs’ ankle would force him to miss the remainder of the season.

2005

In 2005, Tubbs started 11 games and played in 13. He missed weeks 10-12 with a strained left calf. Tubbs did not start in weeks 14 or 15 and throughout the playoffs, but had many of his most effective games coming off the bench, recording 4 sacks in weeks 13-17.

The Deterioration of Tubbs’ Left Knee

2006

Tubbs missed week 4 after having arthroscopic surgery on his inflamed left knee. He would return in week 6, following the bye. At the time, Tubbs was considered to have enjoyed a “speedy recovery”. He was effective in the next contest, recording half a sack and helping to limit stud back Steven Jackson to just 2.8 yards per carry. But after an ineffective week 7, Tubbs was back on the injury report. This time, it was no bump or bruise. Tubbs had suffered torn cartilage in his left knee. Taken from Wikipedia, microfracture surgery is:

…quick (taking around 30 minutes), minimally invasive, and has significantly shorter recovery times than an arthroplasty.

And:

Current studies have shown a success rate of 75 to 80 percent among patients 45 years of age or younger, even among professional athletes.

A recipient can recover in as little as 4 months, though anecdotal evidence indicates the true recovery period to be closer to 2 years. The traits that best correlate with recovery are youth and a commitment to rehabilitation.

Tubbs’ Torn ACL

2007

Tubbs returned midway through the 2007 preseason. He appeared against the Vikings and started against the Raiders. Tubbs tore his ACL attempting to fight off a block by Jeremy Newberry. This is conjecture, mind you, but I’ve watched the play dozens of times now, and I believe he was protecting his left knee. The injury occurred when Tubbs attempted to fight off Newberry’s block, standing entirely on his right leg. At the time, Frank Hughes reported that Tubbs’ ACL tear was potentially career threatening, but ACL tears, especially one’s without damage to cartilage or support structures, are almost never career threatening. It is among the most studied, projectable and if such a thing is possible, routine injuries in the NFL.

Analysis

Marcus Tubbs is injury prone. His health, or lack thereof, may forever relegate him to backup duties. It may end his career. However, neither his more recent ACL tear nor his previous cartilage tear are untreatable or even very exotic. Each injury has a reputable and well researched treatment and each treatment has a high degree of success. Tubbs, because of his age and commitment to rehabilitation, has two of the most important assets to successful recovery. His more serious left knee injury is nearly 2 years removed from treatment, a period anecdotal evidence suggests is required for full recovery. Tubbs recent arthroscopic surgery was minimally invasive and relatively routine for a patient recovering from an ACL graft. Nevertheless, Tubbs most be monitored for inflammation of his right knee, a sign that further, previously undetected, damage, even cartilage damage, is possible. Will Carroll once stated that injuries have a sort of inertia. Healthy players tend to stay healthy and injured players tend to suffer reinjury and new injuries. Tubbs has miserable injury inertia. Still, while Tubbs will forever be a high injury risk, he should enter the 2008 season recovered, healthy and ready to contribute.

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