In the Training Room: Colts Running Back Joseph Addai

Addai breaks away (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Joseph Addai had a career day last Sunday, one that Bill Polian declared maybe his best performance ever, if not statistically.  He also suffered what appeared to be a very serious injury in the game when Redskins linebacker London Fletcher buried the crown of his helmet into Addai’s left shoulder as Addai was already being brought to the ground on a short run. Today, we learned from Indianapolis Star writer Phil B. Wilson that Joe suffered nerve damage to the point where he was unable to raise his left arm on Sunday night. 

Three days later, he was able to raise his arm to just about shoulder height.  Addai’s symptoms are consistent with a brachial plexus injury, the same injury that cost RB Devin Moore his season.  The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that emanates from the neck and pass through the armpit, and down the shoulder, arm and hand.  Damage to any of these nerves can result in pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of function to those areas. A couple pieces of good news here – first, as Addai reported himself, nothing is broken.  When the news came out yesterday from Bill Polian that Addai’s shoulder was not separated, I immediately assumed his collarbone must have been broken.  That would have been a 10-12 week injury, putting him on the outside tolerance for remaining on the active roster. The other “good” news is that it appears Addai’s nerves are returning to function, albeit a bit slowly.  Normally a “stinger” will affect the athlete for no more than an hour.  But when the symptoms last longer – as is the case with Addai – it is likely that more serious damage has been done.  Brachial plexus injuries are classified as first through fifth degree, depending on severity.  A first degree injury is when only the insulation around the nerve is damaged.  A second through fifth degree injury denotes increasing damage, with fifth being a complete severing of the nerve. Clearly the damage was more than a first degree “stinger.”  On the other hand, were any nerves severed, it seems unlikely that Addai would regain much function, if any.  Furthermore, he likely would have undergone surgery as soon as the damage was detected.  The fact that he did not immediately have surgery is encouraging in a way, but the damage must have been extensive for him to claim a potential four-to-five week return. NFL reporter Jason La Canfora tweeted on Wednesday evening that Addai would seek a second opinion on his shoulder.  Usually an athlete seeks a second opinion to try to return to play more quickly.  In this case, however, he may be seeking a second opinion as to whether any nerve was severed, thereby inhibiting his ability to fully recover.

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