Mitch Morse Off-season Elbow & Ankle Surgeries

Mitch Morse Off-season Elbow & Ankle Surgeries

On Monday, it was announced that Bills C Mitch Morse underwent two surgeries this off-season to his right elbow and right ankle.

These procedures came after injuries in the regular season that simply did not get better. Morse spoke to Ryan O’Halloran of The Buffalo News detailing the issues he was dealing with and the procedures themselves. This also explained why Morse was not participating in OTAs, off to the side working out.

While The Buffalo News article did highlight several important updates, today’s article will go into further detail regarding each procedure. This will include when the injury happened and issues that Morse dealt with. It will also discuss the timelines for return and any concerns moving forward. 

Right Elbow Surgery

Morse originally injured his right elbow early in the Week 2 win over the Tennessee Titans as seen below. Originally, I thought it was just a hard contusion to the area in which he fell. However, due to the mechanism of injury, a valgus force through the elbow, he actually sprained his UCL ligament, the same one that Josh Allen injured in Week 9.

He missed the Week 3 contest against the Miami Dolphins after initially being ruled questionable. Morse then spent a majority of the season on the injury report rehabbing the elbow injury. It was stated in the article that he had bone fragments from the original hit that needed to be cleaned out. 

These bone fragments were likely little pieces of cartilage that were floating around in the joint from the hit. These can cause pain and inflammation as they can get caught up in the joint during movement, much like sand does if you get it stuck in where a beach chair folds and you can hear it crunch.


A surgeon went in arthroscopically and cleaned out any of the bone fragments and smoothed down any surrounding bony surfaces. Morse stated that the UCL was sprained but that it healed on his own. As he does not throw, his function was less impacted than we saw with Josh Allen. Morse still at times likely struggled to block and grip the ball for snapping, but with rehab and pain management, he was able to play through it. 

Morse even went on The Pat McAfee show and discussed how he has had to have his elbows operated on twice. It can be observed that he has a sleeve on the right elbow during the appearance.

Due to the recent news, we know that the one surgery happened sometime this offseason. It’s not known when he underwent the other elbow surgery, but looking back at his injury history may provide a clue. He did injure his left elbow in 2020 in Week 14 which required AT intervention to tape it back up. If he had indeed hyperextended the elbow as mentioned in the article, he could have also suffered a UCL sprain as he had with this most recent injury. 

Considering that he underwent this surgery first, the team knew well in advance that this surgery was necessary and wouldn’t get better otherwise. These surgeries take roughly six weeks to recover from fully. This procedure may have been performed shortly after the season.

Right Ankle Surgery 

Looking at the second injury, Morse injured his right ankle when he got taken out in Week 11 during the first offensive snap of the game. 

In The Buffalo News article, he said that he’s rolled his ankle “a thousand times” and this one just did not get better. Like the elbow surgery, the surgeon goes in arthroscopically and cleans out any bone fragments, cartilage damage, and in this case bone spurs.

Bone spurs occur as the result of joint damage due to osteoarthritis. This is where the body attempts to heal within the joint and add bone to the area. Instead, you get smooth and at times, bony prominences around the joint that can cause problems or be totally asymptomatic. 

This fits in line with what Morse said that he’s rolled his ankle a lot prior which is why he would have this present. The ankle sprain just likely never got better, presenting with pain or recurrent inflammation in the area when he would work out.

Working backward, Morse stated he was cleared prior to minicamp which looking at a normal timeline of six weeks puts his surgery date sometime in early May, potentially late April. This also coincides with when the team reported for Phase 1 of OTA’s and possibly found the ankle still wasn’t better.

Season Outlook

Looking at the 2023 season, there is little concern for availability. There is the potential for arthritis in the future, but that can be said for nearly any injury. He could still have problems if he suffers similar injuries again, but that can’t necessarily be prevented. 

At this point, Morse is doing whatever he needs to do to be ready for the season and that includes maintenance surgeries.

What these stories always reveal is how much more significant these injuries are than what they appear in the moment. It should not be Chicken Little for every bump and bruise, but these injuries are often more significant than what they initially appear.

It should not always be assumed that every injury will require surgery later, but it’s also common to see updates like this. This is the cost of playing football and chasing championships. Hopefully, Morse can avoid any future concussions and other injuries that could limit his availability as he enters the twilight of his career.

Top Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne