Houston Texans quarterback Matt Leinart walks off the field after a 20-13… (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated…)
Matt Leinart caught an unlucky break during a 20-13 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The Texans quarterback had been playing a strong game when he was slammed by a hard tackle. Although X-rays at the time were inconclusive, Leinart appeared to have a broken collarbone and may have to sit out the rest of the season.
Injuries to the collarbone, or clavicle, are not uncommon on the gridiron. The number of neck injuries from playing football is relatively higher than those in other high-contact sports, according to a 2005 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Based partly on emergency-room patient counts between 1990 and 1999, researchers estimated there were 5,038 injuries from ice hockey, 19,341 from soccer and 114,706 from football.
Broken collarbones often require surgery; according to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, that may even be a better option than letting it heal naturally. The researchers looked at clavicle fractures sustained by NFL players over a five-year period and found that of 13 of the players with displaced "middle-third" clavicle fractures, six underwent surgery and healed in 8.8 weeks. The other seven players went without surgery and took 13.3 weeks to heal -- and four of those seven actually refractured their collarbones within a year of the first injury. On average, those four players missed one and a half seasons.
Thus, to a professional player like Leinart, likely to be involved in a lot of high-energy impacts in the future, how it heals might be as important as how long it takes.
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