With the Seahawks not allowing us to speak to their team doctors about their players’ injuries — heck, the players themselves are reticent to talk about their own injuries — I went to an outside source for some information, Dr. James Gladstone, the co-chief of sports medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who happened to go to school with Dr. James Andrews, the doctor who did the surgery on the knees of Deion Branch and Nate Burleson.
When I explained what was going on with Hasselbeck, Gladstone said that it seems very unlikely that Hasselbeck’s knee injury in any way had an affect on his back. My own theory was that Hasselbeck hurt the knee, compensated for it by walking abnormally, which caused the bulging disc in the back to act up. Gladstone said that doesn’t sound plausible. He said something else may have caused the disc problem but it was not likely the injured knee. Or, Hass may have had the bulging disc all along and only now, because of the knee injury, is he seeing or feeling the additional effects.
He disagreed with Hasselbeck’s and Holmgren’s percentages of people with a bulging disc. Hass said he was told 85 percent of people have bulging discs. Holmgren said everybody. Gladstone said 40 percent of people walking around have bulging discs. “But it doesn’t mean anything unless it is pushing on a nerve,” Gladstone said.
He said that from Holmgren’s description of what is going on — the bulging disc is creating weakness in the leg — it sounds like the L2 or L3 disc is pressing on a nerve root and making Hasselbeck’s quadriceps muscle weak. That would impede Hasselbeck’s ability to plant or push off on his leg.
ESPN initially reported that Hasselbeck got an injection to treat the back injury. Gladstone said that was more likely a cortisone shot, a powerful anti-inflammatory. Holmgren said on Monday he did not know if Hasselbeck would get additional shots, but that he thought you could only get so many shots in a certain amount of time. Gladstone said cortisone shots generally come in sets of 3, so if the August shot that Hasselbeck received was the only one he got, he could another immediately. We don’t know how many shots he has had.
The big question, of course, is whether this is career threatening or something that will plague Hasselbeck the rest of his career. Gladstone said no, as long as the disc is not herniated, the symptoms can disappear either on their own or through physical therapy and possibly be gone for good. “A lot settle down on their own,” Gladstone said. “The question is whether they settle down in two weeks or in four to six months.”
I also asked Gladstone about Deion Branch’s heel injury, and whether that was possibly created by Branch maybe coming back too early from his ACL surgery. He said that Branch may have come back a little early, but his knee and leg should be structurally sound so the timing sounds about right. And he also said that the heel likely had nothing to do with the knee. “Sounds to me like he was just unlucky,” Gladstone said.