Don’t panic: Ben’s may return sooner, rather than later

In my previous article, Knees 101: The “reality” of Big Ben’s injury, I discussed the circumstances of Ben Roethlisberger‘s situation, based on my professional medical expertise for these type of injuries and procedures.

For those who read the entire article, they now have a better understanding of what a knee can, and can’t, do in terms of healing; it widely depends, of course, on the athlete, but also on the injury and more importantly in this case, the procedure done.

It’s Too Early To Tell

That is where I need to start, as I need to reiterate what was written. Some media pundits are speculating that Big Ben could be out 4-6 weeks, but I feel that is inaccurate.

If Ben had a repair of his torn meniscus, then yes, that would be a reasonable guess as to when and if he might be able to return.

However, he did not have a repair of his meniscus tear, but a “trim” (or what is referred to as a meniscectomy). The typical recovery time from a meniscectomy, for an otherwise healthy person, is 2-4 weeks. The damaged meniscus tissue is trimmed away, not sutured together, as in a repair that relies on the body to assist in the healing process in a much bigger fashion.

In a meniscectomy, the recovery is all about the swelling; then following the doctor’s orders to ice, elevate, and stay off it for the first few days.

In stating that, here is what Ben said in his interview with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Doc says my knee looked good, but there was still some stuff in there from when I had my bone bruise last season in St. Louis… it might keep me out a little longer than a simple tear… It all depends on my pain and how I feel.”

Roethlisberger is adhering to the physician’s orders, adding “I’m icing and elevating as we speak” (the protocol I referred to in my previous medical article, and above). In other words, he’s starting on the path to recovery.

When he returns, is another story.

The real test, or what I call a “knowing sign” as to his return, will be if Coach Tomlin allows Ben to be on the sideline as one of the “coaches”, complete with earpiece, clipboard and all, as he did last season: the doctor instructed that he do his first 10 days for rehab at home.

If Tomlin allows Ben to come to the game, and be a part of it (albeit from the sideline) it would be a huge shout out to Steelers Nation that Ben may return sooner rather than later.

If he doesn’t, it would be because Ben might stand for 3+ hours, and that might not be advisable. That may be the only reason Coach Tomlin says no.

Ben went on to add in his interview with the Post-Gazette

“Doc told me at halftime [in the Miami game] he was pretty sure I had a meniscus tear and I was probably going to have surgery Monday and that it was up to me [meaning Ben] and my pain but no more damage would come to the knee.”

Does that sound like our tough as nails QB plans to be out 4-6 weeks?

I don’t think so.

We know Ben’s a warrior: think of last season, when he came back from the foot/ankle injury (wearing a larger shoe) or re-entering the Wild Card playoff game, after being injured by a brutal hit. Ben is unlike any other quarterback, or maybe any other player, in the NFL.

He wants to be on the field, win, lose, or draw.

However, we know Ben will not be on the field this Sunday, when the Steelers play against the New England Patriots. His replacement, QB Landry Jones, is taking all of the first-team reps in practice this week, in preparation to start, as Ben has already been ruled out by Coach Tomlin for the game.

Landry Jones is taking the leadership role seriously. In Wednesday’s team meeting, Ben’s replacement, stood up and addressed the team:

All of us should follow Jones’ advice: do not panic!

Pittsburgh believes in the “Next Man Up” mantra, and Sunday will be no different. Ben’s injury, while unfortunate, could not come at a “better” time: following the New England game, the Steelers have a bye week. If you count the days from the surgery [Monday] to the November 6th Ravens game, it gives Ben 20 days to recover.

That is close to 3 weeks.

I am not saying we see Ben in play against the Ravens for sure, but baring any set backs, I’d be surprised if he didn’t.

From a clinical and financial perspective, this is routine for me. I’ve been involved with these types of injuries for over 20 years. In my professional opinion, based on the type of procedure Ben had, and the resiliency he has to fight through injury and pain, the will he has to be out on the field, we could see Roethlisberger sooner, rather than later.

Either way, it’s too early to tell, or to even speculate past 2-4 weeks. We can’t predict Ben’s recovery this soon only based on surgery.

Following the Patriots game, roughly a week from the procedure, we should have a more accurate time frame for Ben’s return.

Until then, we should all stay far away from the panic button.

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