Experts split on Jackson's prospects

March 20, 1991|By Lawrence K. Altman | Lawrence K. Altman,New York Times News Service

Experts in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine were divided about whether Bo Jackson, an all-star in both baseball and football and a media superstar, will be able to play either sport in the future.

At least one orthopedic surgeon for a professional football team, Dr. Russell Warren of the New York Giants, said yesterday that Jackson's hip injury, though serious, might not be career-ending. Warren said he managed the care of a running back with an almost identical injury and that the player stayed out a season and is still playing professional football.

Warren said Jackson might be able to return to the playing field without noticeable problems but that it might not be best for his hip.

"My bet is he will take a shot at coming back if" the monitoring tests show his hip heals, Warren said, adding that such a judgment would have to wait until at least late summer.

But other orthopedic experts expressed serious doubt that Jackson could return to professional competition from their reading of the Kansas City Royals' medical report on Jackson's hip injury.

The Royals' team physician, Dr. Steve Joyce, said Jackson's prognosis for returning to competitive athletics is uncertain. Joyce discovered the necrosis during an examination in February. Tests Friday showed a worsening of the cartilage and bone problems.

Joyce's report of those tests and his recommendation that Jackson would not be able to play baseball this season led the Royals to release him Monday.

Dr. James R. Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon who has treated Jackson in Birmingham, Ala., said he had would wait to see how well Jackson's injuries healed over the next several months before determining whether Jackson could play again.

Dr. James Garrick, an orthopedist and sports medicine specialist in San Francisco, were pessimistic because even if the blood supply is restored and the bone heals without collapsing, Jackson will still be left with a bad joint from cartilage damage. The bones in Jackson's hip would meet face-to-face without cartilage, and that could be painful.

If Jackson does play, Garrick said, baseball is a more likely choice than football. Because football players twist and pivot as they run, they tend to put more stress on the hip joint than a baseball player who tends to run straight.

Dr. Clement B. Sledge, a specialist in hip surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said he thinks it unlikely that Jackson could return to professional athletics unless his injury "takes a miraculous course."

The complications from Jackson's injury are separate problems that involve damage to the bone and cartilage.

One is complete loss of the thin layer of cartilage that lines the ball and socket hip joint and is known as traumatic chondrolysis. Cartilage helps protect bone by cushioning it from shocks. Loss of cartilage can be devastating, particularly to athletes, because adults are unable to form new cartilage.

The second complication is destruction of bone in one section of the femur, the thigh bone that connects the leg and pelvis at the hip. The damage is called avascular necrosis because bone cells die as a result of a damaged blood supply.

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