Dr. James Andrews issued a statement about Robert Griffin III’s reconstructive knee surgery on Wednesday, but otherwise did not speak to the media.
On Thursday, though, the famed surgeon was interviewed on a weekly sports medicine show on Doctor Radio, SiriusXM’s 24/7 health and medical channel. Andrews had a wide-ranging, 36-minute conversation with three hosts from the NYU Langone Medical Center, which touched on modern sports medicine, various surgical procedures, what it’s like to practice medicine on the sidelines, and his new book. But he was asked several questions about RGIII, including one about Wednesday’s surgery.
“Well, I really can’t talk specifically about an injury from just the privacy act of that young man’s career,” Andrews said. “But obviously I had to operate on his knee [Wednesday]. And it’s a shame, but he had a re-injury to his ACL. He’s already waiting on me this morning to start his rehab and start his recovery. A fine young man and a great talent. We’re looking forward to trying to get him back, ready for next season. That’s about the gist of it.”
Later, he was asked about the confusion on the sidelines during the Ravens game, when Griffin was first injured. His answer mostly mirrored what he told Mike Jones earlier this week, but in case you can’t get enough…
“Well, he came off the sidelines, he walked off the field, we saw he was injured,” Andrews said. “The assistant trainer went out to get him and helped escort him [off the field]. And he went into the first part of the box right off the field, didn’t take his helmet off, walked through a bunch of players there. We were, of course, in the background, in the back of the box. He walked right through 20 or 30 feet, and went back out on the field, and threw two passes and then fell down.
“So we didn’t get to see him, we didn’t get to touch him,” Andrews continued. “I think [Mike Shanahan] asked us was he cleared, was he ready. And basically we said, well, he’s back running again, he ran out on the field, so we hope he’s ok. I don’t know whether we told [Shanahan] we didn’t get to see him, but he appeared to be okay. We would have had to call timeout and go out and get him, but he looked like he was okay.
“That caused quite a bit of confusion on the sidelines,” Andrews said. “It was poor communication. Then we finally got him two plays, three plays later, back again off the field and on the examining table so we could determine that yes, you hurt your knee a little bit, you’re out of the game. And then that communication went up directly. That’s the heat of the battle, things like that happen, and then communication breaks down because the player never came through there and stopped to let us even look at him, much less talk to him and examine him.”
So that’s what happened. Andrews also talked more generally about the challenges of examining players on an NFL sideline.
“Particularly the pros, someone gets hurt and you get ‘em off the field, and they’re so angry at themselves for getting hurt, they’re in denial, they take off down the field in the box there on the sidelines, and they won’t even let you come close to them,” he said. “They’re extremely angry and upset. And we’ve been taught in the NFL that you don’t go try to tackle ‘em, you don’t go try to pull ‘em and physically sit ‘em down. You have to let them walk around, calm down, get their mind straight, and then you can examine them.
“Matter of fact, I’ve seen some NFL players, you’re almost scared to try to examine them,” Andrews continued. “You’re afraid they’ll turn around and hit you or something, because they’re in this crisis mode, like, what happened to me? So you have to cool ‘em off, let ‘em walk down through the box and sit down by themselves, and then gradually go get them to take care of them.”
Near the end of the interview, Andrews was asked about the general prognosis of an elite athlete coming back from a second ACL surgery. He didn’t exactly answer that question, but this is what he said.
“Well, we talk about ACL reconstructive procedures — [it's] one of our best operations we do in sports, as far as the overall results,” he said. “Ninety-five percent, is just a figure that comes out of the head right now, success rate. That’s across the board.
“Now, if you take an NFL running back that’s got to depend on his knee function probably at the highest level, there’s about 55 percent of them that are still playing football after what we would call a successful ACL surgery, about 55 percent still playing actively in the NFL after two years,” he later said. “So is that a failure of the ACL surgery? No, that’s a failure of that running back losing a step and losing the ability to cut on a dime and is not able to play. So it’s not as rosy as what it might look, as you go up the ladder to try to play football professionally after an ACL operation.”