Combine Medical Spotlight: Matt Barkley

Reportedly 90% recovered, Barkley still faces questions in Indianapolis.

Reportedly 90% recovered, Barkley still faces questions in Indianapolis.

Matt Barkley disappointed scouts who wanted to see him throw at the combine this weekend. But teams are still expected to evaluate his shoulder medically. His orthopedic exam won’t be shown on NFL Network, but it will be as heavily scrutinized as his on-field throwing drills would have been.

And with good reason.

Adam Schefter’s report on Barkley’s decision not to throw this week noted that Barkley was already dealing with shoulder soreness before the November 17th hit that knocked him out for the season. Pro Football Talk has a source that says Barkley’s injury is a grade 3 AC joint sprain.

Barkley chose not to have surgery. If the reports from Schefter and PFT are accurate, every orthopedic staff will want to know why.

It’s rare for non-athletes to have surgery to fix a grade 2 or 3 AC joint injury. Treatment with ice, anti-inflammatory drugs and a protective sling has been shown to be as effective as surgery.

(Please see this post for more detail on AC joint injuries, also known as shoulder separations.)

However, surgery is often recommended for patients who stress their shoulder with frequent, overhead movements – like an NFL quarterback. There’s precedent here, too. Barkley’s injury is very similar to two other high profile quarterbacks who chose to have surgery after trying to play through an AC joint injury.

Sam Bradford aggravated a shoulder injury in his final season at Oklahoma and chose to have surgery for what was reportedly a grade 2/3 AC joint sprain prior to entering the draft. Likewise, Matthew Stafford had surgery for a grade 2 AC joint sprain after two extended absences with the injury during the 2010 season.

In a statement sent by his agents, Barkley was apparently cleared to throw in the past 10-14 days and said to be at 90% of a complete recovery. That is not far out of the range of expectation for a grade 3 injury, which can take up to 12 weeks to heal.

It’s also possible that Barkley has fully recovered and his camp has decided that an extra month of rehabilitation and the chance to throw on his home field is worth the potential public relations hit he could take by not throwing in Indianapolis.

Dr. James Andrews is part of Barkley’s treatment team, and will give NFL teams his progress notes and imaging studies as supporting evidence for the decision to hold Barkley from on-field workouts. That will undoubtedly go a long way to quelling concerns.

Nonetheless, teams will try to get as much information as they can from their orthopedic exam on Friday. Even if every team is comfortable with the stability of his shoulder this weekend, the stakes will be extremely high when Barkley throws at his Pro Day on March 27.

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Categories: Injury Updates

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