What a labral tear means for Braxton Miller and his future

Braxton Miller in action against Michigan in 2013. Photo: Wikipedia

Braxton Miller in action against Michigan in 2013. Photo: Wikipedia

On the heels of Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller’s devastating news, I want to clear up any confusion about labral tears or glenoid labrum shoulder injuries.

Depending on the injury’s severity, some athletes can play through it. Unfortunately that’s not the case for Miller. He’s out for the rest of this year.

Today, I spoke with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this injury. We discussed how it occurs and its various treatments, as well as Miller’s future in football.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Aug. 20, 2014.


HORNER: On with us now, very timely, is Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Joe, what about this injury to Braxton Miller, hurt shoulder and out for the year. What type of injury do we have here?

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, that’s a devastating blow to Ohio State. You know, they have good quarterbacks [as backup] and everything, but such an experienced quarterback and for the kid himself — it was a big year for him — it is devastating for him.

And, everybody’s asking, “What is this glenoid labrum? What is a labral tear?” We hear about it so much.

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

In a clinic like mine, this week I think I’ve had 2 or 3 already. It has become a very common sports-related injury, probably the most common one that we worry about a lot in the shoulder because it’s one that if it is a significant tear [and] needs surgery, athletes miss a significant period of time.

The labrum is a cartilage pad extension to the ball and socket of the shoulder. You know, we talk about the shoulder being a ball-and-socket joint, but it’s really like an oversized ball on a golf tee.

What happens is that ball has to balance on the golf tee, and yet in sports, we move the shoulder into so many extremes of motion. As that ball moves back and forth on the small golf tee, this extension or cartilage pad — [which] has suction-cup qualities and holds that ball in the middle of the golf tee, as well as the ligaments around it — through sport [is moved] forcefully too far and you’ll catch or tear this cartilage pad.

Sometimes the cartilage just frays a little bit and sometimes it kinda peels off the bone a little, and many people with more mild cartilage tears or labral tears can play through it.

The word in baseball is as high as 20 percent of baseball pitchers may have labral fraying or early tearing, but when it’s a really significant flap-type tear, it blocks people from moving the shoulder in different directions and athletes can’t play through it.

And with a quarterback, if you have a significant labral tear, there will have to be surgery to remove the torn part of the labrum and tighten the shoulder back up and that is several months out of sporting activity, unfortunately.

HORNER: Does he have any chance of continuing a career, say a tryout with a pro team or something, or is he done?

DR. CONGENI: Sure he does. And you heard him saying about wanting to be back next year, red shirting this year, being a grad student [next year]. That’s a possibility for him.

Uh, yes, many athletes play after they’ve had that labrum repaired. Sometimes it can be repaired, sometimes it’s just trimmed out and then the shoulder is tightened again.

But, that will be a tricky surgery in a quarterback. It’s even trickier in a baseball pitcher, Ray. But, there are many, many examples of people who get back.

And so for the young kid and for Ohio State, the hope is that this repair goes well and he has enough time to fix it and be back.

HORNER: Alright, Joe, great stuff, very timely. Thanks for jumping on with us this morning as always, appreciate it.

DR. CONGENI: Alright, Ray. I’ll see you around soon, okay?

HORNER: You got it. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, joining us this morning. A little bit on the Braxton Miller loss for the Ohio State football team.

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About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.