Now that we have some clarity about the Patriots’ star linebacker’s shoulder condition, what are the short- and long-term ramifications for this injury?
The unfortunate news about Donta Hightower’s shoulder/chest injury has started to filter out – when it was announced on Wednesday that he was already ruled out for Sunday’s game people began to fear the worst. Today those fears were at least partially confirmed when word began to leak that Hightower had an injury to his right pec muscle/tendon and would miss the rest of the year. More recently, however, Adam Schefter tweeted that it was unclear if he would actually be out for the whole season and that the linebacker would be seeing Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion.
The gray area with this condition comes with the exact anatomic location of the injury – the pec muscle/tendon unit can be torn at the area where the muscle turns to tendon (a musculotendinous injury) or the tendon can tear fully off of its attachment to the humerus.
The differentiation between these two types of injuries is important, because if it is a musculotendinous tear it will cause short-term pain and difficulty using the arm but does not need surgery. If this is the case with Hightower he could certainly return sometime this season without an operation. If the tendon is torn fully off the bone, however, it would certainly require surgical fixation and cause Hightower to miss the rest of the season. It is not always readily apparent which kind of injury the pec tendon/muscle has sustained based on physical exam and history, hence the need for an MRI. No doubt Hightower will be bringing his images south to see Dr. Andrews, and while Andrews frequently seems to be the harbinger of orthopedic doom, there is a chance he will have good news for the linebacker. Pats fans will have to hold their breath for now and hope that the word “musculotendinous” is their favorite new addition to their sporting vocabulary.