IF PEYTON MANNING regains his arm strength, he should be good to go for the 2012 season and be at no greater risk to sustain a neck injury than any other player.
That’s the opinion of Dr. Eric Freeman, the director of orthopedics and the chief of sports medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, L.I. Freeman has not been involved with Manning, but believes he has an excellent chance to resume his career.
“If his arm strength is back and there’s a documented successful fusion in his neck, teams should be not be wary,” Freeman said Wednesday. “There is no contra-indication to play if there’s been a successful fusion and he has his muscle strength. If you took a healthy quarterback and compared him to Peyton, he’s still at the same risk as a normal quarterback.”
Even if Manning takes a hit to the neck, Freeman said he would be no more susceptible to injury than a QB who has not had spinal fusion surgery.
“Same risk,” Freeman said. “If the fusion has healed successfully and his muscle strength returns in the upper extremities, it’s the same risk. It returns to a normalized risk for playing.”
But Freeman said that Manning could still face problems as he gets older.
“I want to definitely stress he is at greater risk for degenerative disease above and below the fusion,” he said.
Manning has been working hard to regain arm strength. “I’m throwing it pretty well,” he said Wednesday. “I still have some work to do and some progress to make. I’ve come a long way.”
Manning has not played in a game since losing to the Jets in the wild-card round following the 2010 season. “The question immediately is whether or not he is able to maintain the quick release he had in the past. When there is impingement of these nerves, you develop weakness in the muscle, and it can take a couple of years to regain that strength. In terms of getting that strength back, that’s the key to him being successful.”