A shudder went through Colts fans this week as head coach Tony Dungy mentioned that linebacker Cato June, who leads the team with five interceptions, is in the "very first stages" of a sports hernia injury.
Previously known as one of a number of conditions generally called a "groin injury" the sports hernia injury is becoming the more specific term for a small tear in the muscles of the lower abdomen that causes discomfort in the lower abdomen or groin. It usually occurs in athletes that do a lot of twisting and flexing at the hips during game action such as football and soccer players.
Since both defensive tackle Josh Willliams and rookie linebacker Tyjuan Hagler both went under the knife to correct theirs, some might mistakenly jump to the conclusion that June's season is over. But sports hernia injuries don't always require surgery -- in fact, it's usually the second option of treatment.
The key phrase that Dungy uttered is "very first stages." Unless there is concern that the sports hernia is causing ongoing, severe pain, the usual prescription for dealing with it is rest, ice packs applied a few times a day, and ibuprofen. However, it can take weeks or months to heal on it's own. And if the player continues to play -- even with rest -- he can aggravate the injury and cause the pain to increase over time.
But once a player opts for surgery, the player is definitely sidelined for up to 2-3 months. If he goes the more gradual route of just resting, he could continue to play, although it would likely extend his recuperation period and his likelihood of recuperating without surgery at some point down the road.
So one option for June is to take this week, the bye week and part of the following week's practice time to recuperate and see where he is at that point. It may be enough to give him relief and allow the tear to heal if it's truly a minor one. At worst, the recuperation could help him find some slight relief to prepare for another stretch with less pain.
Josh Williams didn't rush into surgery as a solution for his sports hernia injury. Rookie Tyjuan Hagler played -- with some pain and discomfort -- for two years at the University of Cincinnati with his before being correctly diagnosed by the Colts and having the surgery done. And don't forget, Hagler played well enough during those seasons to be drafted in the fifth-round.
Linebacker David Thornton, has been battling a groin injury that was first mentioned back during summer school workouts. He's been on the injury list practically every week and has missed some practice time, but he continues to line up every Sunday.
The risk to continuing to play is obviously aggravating or worsening the injury. But if that happens, the result is the same as it would be if the current tear doesn't heal through rest -- surgery. The recovery time varies from athlete to athlete but is often 2-3 months.
With June in the early stages of his injury, he may take a couple of weeks off -- since the Colts are so close to their bye -- to see if a bit of rest can alleviate the discomfort and possibly allow him to avoid surgery altogether. That would seem to make the most sense.
But don't be surprised if June can't bear the thought of missing any playing time due to the fast start he's off to this season and lines up this Sunday. He may, much like Thornton, miss some practice time throughout the year but still be out there for every game. Hagler did it for two years, so don't be surprised to see June do it for the balance of this season and have the condition corrected in the offseason instead.
Don't Jump to Conclusions About June's Injury
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