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A Brief "Hello", and Will Carroll on Walter Jones

Greetings, all. Doug Farrar from Football Outsiders here, and it will be my honor to post on Field Gulls from here on out with news, analysis, and other stuff as time permits and events dictate. I’ve been a fan of the work here for a long time, and I’d like to thank John for giving me a place to get my Seahawks ya-yas out.

However, that’s all the intro I have time for right now – I’ve been waiting for a response from Will Carroll (he’s got his own Wiki!) on the Walter Jones situation.

You may know Will from his work with Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, SI, FO – the man is ubiquitous, and he’s one of the most respected sports injury experts around. I asked Will about the initial reports re: the Jones microfracture surgery; that it was performed on a non-weight-bearing area and that this will make a difference in recovery. Will just got home from baseball’s winter meetings in Vegas, and he’ll have more on this next week, but here’s the initial analysis:

"Depends where he's having it on the knee. Sounds like they're arguing it will be (in the area of) the lateral (collateral ligament), but all of it's weight-bearing. At his age and with the problems, this is very Hail Mary, but why not?"

 And that’s the giant "Ugh". Weight-bearing vs. non-weight-bearing? When it comes to the microfracture procedure, it just makes sense that if you’re on the other side of 300 pounds, and you make your living holding the point against some of the most ungodly athletes ever to walk the planet...

This isn’t reconstruction per se – it’s cartilage repair caused by the effects of bone fractures. Downhill skiers and basketball players have a much higher success rate with this than huge linemen. Ask Marcus Tubbs.

Speaking of, I got Will's take on the Tubbs preseason injury last year; there's a little more insight as to his opinion on the process:

Will Carroll, sports injury expert for Baseball Prospectus, Football Outsiders, and, says that it’s really dependent on how much "faith in Richard Steadman's controversial (microfracture) technique - one that seems to get great results or, at worst, does nothing."

In short, the arthroscopic procedure involves the removal of any unstable cartilage from the knee area, and the creation of small holes ("microfractures") in the bone. Bone Marrow cells and blood from the area will then form a new structure – at least, that’s the idea. The problem, of course, is whether the extension of a career this violent through these means is the rough equivalent of trying to stop a charging rhino with a toy pistol. According to Carroll, the ACL repair procedure has more documented reliability in these types of cases, and the two injuries should not necessarily be seen as cumulative.

"The ACL, as we've seen, doesn't really factor in, especially for linemen. I think what we have to look at is that we've seen comebacks from both (injuries, though most microfracture "survivors" have not been linemen) and consider them separately rather than as most people logically do -- as parts of the same person," Carroll concluded. "I'm more worried about the weight and the microfracture - there's just no good comparable. From the ACL, we've seen a lot of (recoveries), usually without short-term problems. I'd think the biggest concern is that he can come back from the microfracture, something he's already demonstrated to some extent, and that his career is not likely to challenge Chris Gray’s for longevity!"

Walter Jones is a Superman; of that there is absolutely no doubt. There is a lot we don’t know yet about his procedure and what it means for his future. But Will said it best – it’s a Hail Mary under these circumstances.

I wish I had better (or more definitive) news, but there’ll be more later. When Will writes next week’s

Black and Blue Report, we’ll be awaiting new info, and he’s the guy who will have it.