How Soon Can Bennett Return?

A surgeon with knowledge of Michael Bennett's foot procedure gives his opinion on the likelihood of the running back playing again this season.

Now out indefinitely with a lingering foot injury, running back Michael Bennett could be one of the players that the Vikings could least afford to lose for part of or the entire 2003 season. Coming off a breakout season in 2002, the Vikings were counting on Bennett to supplement the recharged Minnesota offense.

The Bennett injury, a fracture of the foot, was operated on and a screw was inserted to improve the stability and healing process of the region. Originally, the injury appeared to be healing well and Bennett's recovery was on course. A few months into the healing process, Bennett began to experience increased discomfort with the foot and his workout regimen was limited, according to a team source.

"Michael (Bennett) was on schedule following the surgery, and we were careful with him regarding this injury. If not properly treated, this type of injury can cause anyone a serious amount of pain and discomfort," the team source said. " At the present time, meeting with Michael, the team doctors, and noting the surgeon reports, we all agree that Michael will have to shut it down and enter into a fairly new procedure to improve the healing of the weakened area of the foot structure."

While the Vikings and Bennett are optimistic that a second procedure -- one that injects bone marrow and an enzyme into the defective structure to promote enhanced healing -- can salvage his 2003 season and potentially his immediate career, The Insiders has discussed at length the procedure and the likelihood that Bennett will be effective for the Vikings in the 2003 season.

"Depending on the severity of the initial injury and post-surgery determination would dictate the effectiveness of the injection procedure. In most cases, this procedure works well for a person that will not place consistent pressure and pounding of the area on a consistent basis," a reputed surgeon tells The Insiders. "My experience with athletes has been that they want to do whatever possible to play, which increases the risk factor, in turn jeopardizes career aspirations. I haven't had the opportunity to research the player in question's (Bennett) injury, but from the description of the initial surgery, he is at a risk.

"Also, the area is already weakened to some degree, the common thought is that the procedure can promote healing. While in some cases running and physical activity can be conducted, the pain aspect normally is an issue. A player would have to have a very high pain threshhold to be effective at the level of a professional football player that depends on his legs and feet."

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