I’m writing this as a guy who has broken his collarbone twice and speaks from personal experience.
Aaron Rodgers isn’t coming back in 2017.
I’m not a doctor, but I know that everyone loves pointing at doctors opinions and comments and trying to extrapolate it to what that means for Aaron’s return, down to the date.
For starters, every doctor is different. The first time I broke my collarbone, the doctor said that I had to wear a sling for it to heal right. When I broke it a second time (in the same place), a different doctor told me that putting it in a sling impedes healing and to never wear a sling.
Doctors are different. None of them truly know, they’re just going off past experience, a lot of education, and then guessing.
I’m going off personal experience and I’m not guessing.
When your collarbone breaks, it hurts like a mother. Look at a skeleton, it’s the only bone that holds your arm on – in the back it’s all tendons and ligaments, not nearly as supportive or structurally sound.
Aaron Rodgers weights 225 pounds, which means each arm is around 15 pounds (science!). Go grab a 15 pound dumbell or, if you don’t have one, a baby. Now imagine you have a broken bone, with two pieces rubbing against each other, and that 15 pound weight is yanking on it.
That’s a lot of pressure to heal against. When your collarbone breaks, it doesn’t just snap together like legos to heal, either. The two ends sort of sit on each other. Hold your index fingers out so they are pointed at each other and touch at the fingertip. That’s how you’d like a broken collarbone to heal. Now put one finger on top of the other and cover half a fingernail – that’s how it actually heals.
The result is your shoulder bunches up and one arm is longer than the other. It makes your neck stiff and your upper back tight and you have to really stretch and exercise to make sure it doesn’t become a huge problem (because it will always be a problem). Oh, and you’ll never be able to do the backstroke again because when you bring that arm around and over your head, your shoulder will hinge out and your arm will go off to the side instead coming straight back. All the anatomy your body built over the course of your entire life is now structurally altered – it’s not like breaking a finger.
If it’s your left shoulder, like mine and like Aaron’s first injury, you can still throw just fine with your right arm.
If it’s your throwing arm… not so much.
I believe this is the main reason that Rodgers opted for surgery in this case. Pins and screws and plates can hold the bone in place so it heals straight (like both fingers pointing at each other and touching at the tip). It’s the only chance he has at ever throwing normally again (I’d say it’s a pretty good chance, though, but it will take time).
The biggest thing he has to do is let it rest. I know everyone was antsy last time he did it and wanted him to come back as soon as he was out of the sling, but that’s not the end of healing. Getting the bone strong enough to support itself only takes a few weeks. Getting it solid enough to not re-break? Months. Getting it solid enough to endure throwing 70 yard bombs and more cheap shots from pieces of sh!t like Anthony Barr and Shea McClellin? Many months.
The first time I broke my collarbone, I went back to work and sports too early. If felt fine but, unbeknownst to me (I didn’t get a bone scan), it wasn’t fully healed all the way through. End result? Broken again playing full contact football five months later. Training camp was just starting, but I missed the whole season.
Bone scans can tell you if the bone is fully healed, but you can’t tell how long it will take to heal.
Whatever happened the last time Rodgers broke his collarbone is no indicator of how long it will take to heal this time, either. Every break is different and every healing process is different. But these things have to be considered pretty important factors:
- Rodgers is older and when people creep up in the 30’s they usually don’t start healing bones any faster
- Rodgers had surgery, which is good for long-term healing, but the invasion and tax it puts on the body is like another injury on top of his injury and there will be another procedure to remove the hardware, which will require it’s own healing schedule
- Rodgers hurt his throwing shoulder this time; that’s the golden goose, dude – do not f#ck with it
The Packers are not going to have Rodgers ready this year. Could he come back for the playoffs? It’s possible, but why would you want to do that? If Hundley actually manages to get them to the dance, do you want to switch horses at that point? Maybe – Rodgers is probably one of the few talents elite enough to try it.
But think of how rusty Rodgers was against Seattle coming off training camp. He’s going to be much worse than that, and hesitant (as is the case with most injury returns). His collarbone will be much safer and more structurally sound in June for minicamp.
I know there’s a lot more clicks to be had by dissecting comments and postulating when he could come back, but I’m going for reality here.
He’s not coming back.
Let’s let Aaron rest. Let’s accept that he isn’t coming back. Let’s enjoy the season for what it is – a good team led by a young quarterback trying to prove himself. Guys like Aaron Jones and Blake Martinez can emerge and maybe become leaders. If they make the playoffs, it’s going to be a h#ll of a ride. If they don’t, we get to look forward to being in a position to pick a guy like Marshon Lattimore in the 2018 draft.
Either way, kick back and enjoy the ride.