Vontae Davis Injury Analysis

Analyzing the latest Buffalo Bills signing of Vontae Davis, reviewing injury history and expectations for next season.

More news coming out of One Bills Drive with the recent signing of CB Vontae Davis. This is a move that has been discussed for several weeks and is now official. This signing may allow the Bills to hedge their bets that CB E.J. Gaines leaves in free agency. With Davis now roaming the secondary, this allows the Bills to further add to the positional group without sacrificing other areas of need. Today’s post will go over Davis’ injury history and detail his recent core injury.

Reviewing his career, the 9th year pro is a 2-time Pro Bowl selection drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins out of Illinois in 2009. After 3 seasons in Miami, he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts where he spent 6 seasons with the team before leaving under difficult circumstances.. As a corner back in the NFL, Davis has had several injuries that vary in severity. These injuries include: knee, quadriceps, wrist, hamstring, neck, elbow, ankle, foot, groin, and concussions. Year by year, a hamstring injury in 2011 caused him to miss 3 games, 2012 saw him miss 6 games due to knee and ankle injuries. 2014 saw a missed game due to a concussion, 2016 saw two games missed due to ankle injury, and 2017 forced him to miss 3 games before returning to play prior to his release with a groin/core muscle injury. While Davis has had a litany of injuries throughout his career, this is not uncommon to see to a player at his position.

However, the injury that Davis sustained which ended his 2017 campaign is more commonly known as a sports hernia. Despite the name, this injury is not actually a hernia in which organs protrude through the muscle wall. Instead, a portion of the deep abdominal wall tears away from the pubic bone which is found in the groin area where the leg meets the hip near the genital region. His injury has been described as a core or groin injury. Both are correct descriptors but can be confusing when reports come out that vary which make understanding what exactly happened more difficult. A picture below helps outline anatomically what is going on.

athletic pubalgia diagram c.gif
Credit: radprotocols.webs.com/athletic-pubalgia

Causes of this injury include violet twisting, kicking, and turning along with blows to the back can contribute towards increased incidence. Unsafe or intense abdominal exercises can also cause the injury with deconditioning or overuse is present. Symptoms include sharp pain in the groin area during turning, running, kicking, twisting, tenderness to the area, and typically one sided discomfort. According to reports, Davis sustained the injury during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was unable to return for the next several games.

After missing the first 3 games due to the injury, he was able to play through 5 games before aggravating the injury. The Colts then benched him for as they described “poor play”, but his injury is most likely what led to his ability to play. Not being able to perform the physical requirements of the position secondary to pain led to his decline in ability. Colts team doctors then recommended to continue to rehab with conservative management and play with the injury. However, Davis went against team doctors’ wishes and opted for surgery which led to his ugly release from the team.

Davis could have recovered from his injury without surgery with rehab a more than effective intervention to return to his prior level. However with his age, positional considerations, and assumed time left in the league, Davis opted for the surgery to ensure his ability to return to top form for the 2018 season. A timeline for recovery is up to 12 weeks due to the location and nature of the surgery. The tear would be repaired and restrictions would be set in place to ensure healing. The focus on surgery would address range of motion, scar management, pain, and light strengthening in the beginning. Following proper healing of the affected tissue, agility, plyometrics, and speed drills are incorporated in order to return to sport related activities. A return to sport protocol that outlines a 12 week recovery is detailed here. Additional rehab protocol including a conservative, non-operative protocol can be found here. Please click these links, these are fantastic resources especially for an injury such as this.

As Davis has been in the league for 9 years, he demonstrates some level of ability to understand his body in regards to maintenance. He is nearing 30 years old but could still have several effective years left or change position in the secondary to remain effective. Following surgery, there has been reported rates specifically in the NFL upwards of 90% success rate and ability to return to prior level of function. While there is always a chance for re-injury, this specific injury does not appear to be one that can develop into a chronic issue or prevent him from fully participating next season.

As E.J. Gaines has battled several injuries over his career and missed 5 games this past season due to injury, he remains a liability and is commanding big money on the open market. It appears as though Davis is slightly more durable and may be an appropriate alternative if Gaines leaves. It is interesting that Gaines is trending upwards after being a low round draft pick and Davis is a high round draft pick that is trending downwards but may offer similar production. For the price, availability, and no long term commitment makes Davis a strong alternative to replace Gaines. To add in the extra benefits, with Gaines leaving, the Bills would benefit from a compensatory pick which could hypothetically be used to find Davis’ replacement in the draft.

Davis is an impact player that could add a veteran presence to a team slowly getting younger with the ability to earn one more contract if he plays well. This is a smart, low risk, low cost option that is in line with Brandon Beane’s focus to eliminate big contracts that don’t match up with production.

It is impossible to totally eliminate injuries, but the Bills are looking at the overall player and not simply production which may help guide better long term decisions. I like this signing and believe that Davis will reproduce a higher level of play earlier in his career than he has the past two seasons. If the Bills are unsatisfied, they are not stuck with him.

Continue to check back at Banged Up Bills for the latest Bills injury news and updates. Please feel free to ask questions regarding injuries and physical therapy, I enjoy the discussion and educating others regarding injuries. Thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Author: Dr. Trimble

My name is Dr. Kyle Trimble and I am, first and foremost, a Buffalo Bills fan!! When I am not cheering on the Buffalo Bills, I am a Physical Therapist. To give a background on myself; I was born and raised in Erie, PA, moved to Buffalo in 2006 to begin my studies at D'Youville College towards becoming a Physical Therapist at which time I became a devoted Buffalo Bills fan.  I graduated in 2013 with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy and moved home for several years. Moving back to the Buffalo area in 2016, I have gained extensive experience in outpatient orthopedics, skilled nursing, acute care hospital, and home care. Having obtained a significant wealth of knowledge that continues to grow, along with a undying fandom of the Bills, puts me in the unique position to educate my fellow fans about our great team. 
I am currently an injury spotter working with Dr. David Chao, Orthopedic Surgeon based out of San Diego. In this role, I provide real time updates regarding injuries during the game. I also currently write for Grandstand Sports Network and all content is published on both Banged Up Bills and Grandstandsportsnetwork.com. I hope you enjoy what I publish and I welcome any comments or questions you may have.
Disclaimer: My opinions are my own.  Any thoughts I have on the injuries is based on media reports, my knowledge of the injury, and speculation based on the information currently available.


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