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Doctor's Take: Austin Jackson

The Indians added outfielder Austin Jackson to the mix on a low risk deal on Wednesday, and IBI resident medical expert Brandon Bowers gives his thoughts on Jackson's return from knee surgery...

The Indians signed outfielder Austin Jackson to a minor league contract on Wednesday with a non-roster invitation to spring training.  Jackson hit .254 in 54 games for the White Sox last season.  The center fielder's action was limited due in part to a torn meniscus he suffered in his left knee on June 9th.  The 30-year-old underwent meniscectomy surgery on June 15 to remove a portion of the medial meniscus and as a result was on the shelf for the remainder of 2016.

The question now becomes, how will this injury impact Jackson's ability to make meaningful contributions for the Indians in 2017?

What is it?  The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that is located in the knee between the upper leg bone (femur) and the lower leg bone (tibia).  This cartilage serves as a vital shock absorbing cushion in the knee so as to reduce forces transmitted through the femur to the tibia and vise versa when walking, running, jumping etc.  The meniscus also allows the femur and tibia to move fluidly on one another during these same activities.  When the meniscus is injured or torn; the injury can result in pain, decreased range of motion, decreased strength and decreased ability to perform functional activities such as playing baseball.

How is it fixed?  Meniscus injuries in young, healthy individuals are usually managed surgically via one of two methods; a meniscectomy or a meniscus repair. A meniscectomy refers to the removal of the injured or torn piece of the meniscus, the suffix -ectomy meaning surgical removal of.  A meniscus repair does not involve the removal of the injured meniscus; however, involves the surgical suturing of the torn meniscus back to the healthy cartilage.  The difference between the two procedures can be noted during the rehabilitation/healing process where meniscectomies see a quicker return to sport than meniscus repairs.  Also worth noting, in a systematic review performed by Paxton et al. it was determined that meniscectomy procedures result in a lower re-operation rate than meniscus repairs.

Following surgery, the individual will undergo a period of rehabilitation with a physical therapist, athletic trainer or other rehab professional.  Initial rehabilitation will emphasize regaining range motion of the knee, followed by improving strength and finally return to functional/baseball activities.  Once rehabilitation is completed the surgeon will clear the player to return to baseball activities.

Meniscus Repair vs. Meniscectomy

My take.  My concern level here for Jackson is low.  If we consider the surgery he had performed; meniscectomy vs. meniscus repair, and that he had the surgery in June of 2016, I don't expect any limitations in his ability to play when spring training begins next month.  In the event Michael Brantley isn't ready to go come April 3rd against the Rangers, look for Jackson to make a run at a spot on the opening day roster for 2017.

Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT, is a graduate of the University of Toledo, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and currently practices in Columbus, Ohio.  He is an avid Cleveland sports fan and has experience rehabbing athletes of all levels and from a variety of sports.  Follow Brandon on Twitter for more Cleveland Indians injury insight and analysis:  @blbowers12

The information provided is the professional opinion of Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT and is based on his clinical experience and the most current clinical evidence available.  This information should not be interpreted as or substituted for medical advice for a specific condition or diagnosis.


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