A surprise tweet from DT Ed Oliver hit Twitter Tuesday afternoon showing two pictures that he had successful surgery following his rookie year. This created several questions as Oliver did not appear on the injury report all season & only appeared to suffer one known injury following the Titans game in which he sustained a left foot/ankle injury when he tackled RB Derrick Henry. He was able to return following the bye & did not miss any games during this season.
However, Tuesday’s tweet changed things with Oliver in a hospital gown. The Bills had recently performed their end of season exit physicals & issues are found once a full assessment has been performed. We have already observed this with the tweets last week from DE Jerry Hughes & his torn wrist ligaments. Oliver likely had his exit physical & found this issue which required corrective surgery.
Originally, I had thought that he had a routine joint cleanout from general debris such as bone chips, articular cartilage, or frayed tissue due to not appearing on the injury report. But news came out later that he had successful core muscle surgery, commonly known as a sports hernia, announced by Buffalo News reporter Vic Carucci.
Looking back at the Oliver tweet, there were two clues that indicated that he had core muscle surgery. First, the location was in Philadelphia, PA. Oliver could have had arthroscopic surgery in Buffalo or back in his hometown Houston, or wherever he wanted, indicating that Philadelphia was a specific location. Second, the 2nd picture shows the phrase “Vincera Institute” above his head. This was not readily observed unless you were able to zoom in on the picture but this was a dead giveaway in retrospect to what he had done. Frankly, I missed it the first time around.
The Vincera Institute in Philadelphia is run by Dr. William Meyers, a nationally renowned orthopedic doctor specializing in core muscle repair. From what I’ve read, he is THE guy when it comes to core muscle repair. Meyers is also big against identifying the injury as a sports hernia, hence my use of the term core muscle. We don’t know when Oliver suffered his injury, how long he was dealing with it, & how severe it was.
With regard to the injury itself, there is a multitude of variations according to the Vincera Institute website that frankly, even as a licensed Physical Therapist, were new to me. As there are no specifics to which injury he sustained, below is a general description of a core muscle injury.
The adductor muscles in the groin are most commonly injured pictured above, but can also affect the abdominal muscles in the 2nd picture. These injuries can occur with planting the feet & twisting maximally, causing the lower-body injury. They can also occur with violent twisting, kicking, and turning along with blows to the back, anything that overstretches or strains the muscle at its attachment.
These injuries can present as groin strains, oblique strains, or other general injuries around the hip or core region that don’t resolve with proper rest & rehab. A core muscle injury is when the tissue tears & does not heal like a normal strain, commonly with the muscle pulling away from the pubic bone attachment observed in the first picture.
This can present as sharp or stabbing pains with specific movements such as sprinting, kicking, cutting, etc. This can also be tender to touch, little to no pain during rest, and typically isolated to one side. These injuries aren’t always apparent at the time; often minor injuries are able to be played through. The severity of the injury is found later such as during a physical or if the pain becomes too intense to perform an activity.
Fortunately, surgical outcomes are great with at least 90% of repairs in the NFL have shown to resume their normal activities prior to the injury with the control group playing slightly more games and slightly longer careers than those having the surgery. However, the control group in that study were players who had similar careers in relation to experience, statistics, & position played, not indicating that the groin injury itself led to a shorter career. Another study showed 89% of repairs were able to return to the pre-injury level of play with minimal to no pain during a 4-year follow up study.
Rehab for this surgery can be between 6-12 weeks based on the specific type of core muscle surgery & location. Rehab protocols can be found here & here with most protocols skewing towards a lengthened recovery timeline for a conservative approach.
If Oliver has any concerns regarding his recovery, he can ask fellow Bills players C Mitch Morse & WR Cole Beasley who both suffered similar injuries at the end of the 2018 season which required surgery, causing them to miss some of OTA’s last spring. As of writing, both have not had any known issues regarding re-injury to the area & should continue to stay productive. According to the 2020 NFL offseason schedule, the Bills will start OTA’s April 20th. By then, Oliver will be fully healthy without any limitations.
It’s unfortunate that Oliver suffered this injury, but injuries are a part of football. It is great that he got this addressed now so that he may be fully healthy to attack this first offseason as a professional in order to grow into the next great Bills defensive tackle. I have no concerns regarding this injury & his recovery as he was treated by one of the best in the United States & has an excellent facility to rehab at in Buffalo if he so chooses.
I expect there to be more surprise injuries & surgeries as the offseason progresses, but this is just another one that is being addressed properly & maximizing Oliver’s growth as a professional football player.
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