Montana doubtful for 49ers opener

August 24, 1991|By San Francisco Chronicle

SEATTLE -- Joe Montana has virtually ruled himself out of the San Francisco 49ers' season-opening game against the New York Giants, and he could be out longer.

He said last night that his inflamed right elbow hurts him even when he performs simple, everyday tasks, and doctors still don't know how soon he will be able to resume passing.

"I'm not looking forward to the Giants game at this point," Montana said in an interview before the 49ers' final exhibition game against the Seattle Seahawks. "I'm still aiming at it -- but in reality, I don't know."

Neither do doctors.

A inflammation on the inside of his passing elbow has kept Montana out of games since Aug. 3 and limited him to one full practice in two weeks. He hoped to speed his recovery this week when he underwent a series of cortisone shots in the elbow, but they apparently had no effect.

"I just don't know how long it's going to last," Montana said. "When I did get some shots to calm it down, they didn't help, and in the past, they did.

"I tried to pin down the doctor the other day about how long it would take, and he said to wait until you feel better -- and, once it starts feeling good, wait another week after that."

The doctor to whom Montana referred was Dr. Michael Dillingham, the 49ers' orthopedic specialist.

Dillingham's advice means that, even if Montana were to wake up today or tomorrow and feel terrific, he would not test his arm for a week. That would rule him out of practice next week and out of the season opener Sept. 2.

Dillingham is prohibited by the team from discussing Montana's treatment or prognosis, but he described the problem in medical terms.

He said Montana's irritation is largely in the short tendon that attaches the wrist flexor muscle to the medial bone of the right elbow -- the little knob on the inside of the elbow. The medical term is "medial epicondyle," and the muscle that is irritated, which controls the twisting and turning of the hand, is the pronator muscle.

Tennis elbow is the layman's term, but actually that is a misnomer. Tennis players usually have problems on the outside of their elbow; Dillingham said Montana's ailment often is referred to as golfer's elbow.

It isn't just throwing a football that pains Montana. He said routine tasks -- squeezing his hand, shaking hands, turning door knobs, washing his face -- have become difficult.

"Any twisting motion of the hand irritates it. . . . I can do just about anything I want with my arm -- it's the hand and the wrist. I've had this before, in the same area but not as bad."

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