Speculation has run rampant regarding the speedy return of Johnny Manziel to the game following a shoulder injury he suffered in the fourth quarter of the Aggies’ 45-41 loss to Auburn on Saturday. Manziel was injured when he landed directly on his throwing shoulder on a second-and-goal scamper to the two-yard line. On the sidelines, he could be seen grimacing when he tried, unsuccessfully, to make a simple warm-up toss.
After Manziel’s injury, his backup entered the game, threw a third-down incompletion, and the Aggies subsequently kicked a field goal. The Aggies offense went three-and-out on their next possession while Manziel was reportedly receiving “treatment” in a training area underneath the stands.
A mere 10 minutes later, Manziel returned to the field amidst speculation revolving around his speedy recovery. To the amazement of all who watched, Johnny returned to the field and led a 75-yard touchdown drive, completing all seven of his passes of various lengths downfield. Manziel threw the ball with the same authority we’ve become so accustomed to admiring during his career.
It was almost reminiscent of watching quarterback Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) rise from the dead in the ’78 football classic, “Heaven Can Wait” to lead the L.A. Rams to a Super Bowl victory.
This performance of Manziel’s puzzled many folks. They wondered aloud via Twitter and on hundreds of forums across the country whether he had received a “little help” — as a former A&M Head Trainer had referred to “the needle” in a post about shoulder injuries on a local Aggies forum awhile back.
Yes, as a former A&M quarterback who received a “little help” (albeit, unwanted) in the seventies, I certainly hope this wasn’t the case with Johnny. My particular injury was referred to by this particular “expert” as a “pain tolerance” injury, with my ability to return to the field predicated merely on my own toughness. He labeled it similar to having a sprained foot, as I recall.
This, in itself, is an insult to the athletes who have endured variations of this injury, one of whom was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger. His S/C ligaments were strained but not torn, and he was immediately removed from the game and hospitalized.
In my case, as an 18-year-old second-year starting quarterback, the injury was not only an A/C separation of the throwing shoulder that Manziel has also reportedly suffered, but also the dislocation of the collarbone from the sternum – from inside what is called the Sternoclavicular joint. The ligaments that strap the clavicle down inside this “S/C” joint usually prevent an A/C separation such as Johnny’s from becoming worse than it possibly could be.
In a game against SMU, I was slammed to the rock-hard artificial turf and the ligaments in my S/C joint completely tore away. The inside tip of my collarbone was shoved up underneath my Adam ’s apple, where it still sits today, and my shoulder was permanently relocated to a position several inches lower than my right shoulder.
Not only was I sent back into that game, as we had a conference championship on the line, but I was not even X-rayed following the game, or later in the season, or ever, by the A&M medical staff.
My parents were never informed of any injury to me by anyone from the university, yet I received pain-killing shots in my sternum and shoulder prior to and at the halftimes of our final two games. It was only during the following summer, when my parents learned I could no longer pitch or even play golf, that they brought me to an orthopedist. There we were told exactly what had happened to my body. Needless to say, my parents were incensed. We’d been assured it was nothing but a bruise.
I relay this information for one reason—not because I think anything nefarious has gone on with Manziel returning so quickly to the game. In fact, I’m sure Johnny, being the competitor he is, was adamant about returning to the game. No, I relay this message because I’ve seen the reactions of those in the heat of battle and can offer a little advice to amateur athletes playing in the environment we have today.
My sincere conviction is as follows: Amateur athletes should NEVER rely solely on the diagnosis of a team doctor or trainer, especially if it results in the athlete receiving pain-killing shots. I firmly believe athletes who suffer an injury—especially the type that produces extreme pain prohibiting their normal performance—should seek a second medical opinion and not play until they, and their parents, are informed as to the exact repercussions of doing so. I have little doubt the Manziels are taking this very precaution.
No one will be happier than me if Manziel is able to play this coming weekend—well, except for Johnny himself, as he is the epitome of a “gamer.” However, I do hope Johnny and all amateur athletes realize the importance of getting a second opinion, whenever possible, before stepping back onto the field of play. And at all costs, avoid the needle. Anyone who offers you one is not doing it for your personal benefit. After all, there’ll be plenty of time for that in the pros.