Thursday, August 28, 2008

Does Dr. Harvey Mandrake Work For the Chargers?

In Oliver Stone's gridiron film Any Given Sunday there is a crooked and amoral team doctor, played by the one, the only James Woods, who will patch up/drug up injured players to keep them on the field. He does this with no regard for their health and with the total support of the organization, the fictional Miami Sharks. You could say, that he doesn't care what happens to the players come Monday. Only how they perform on that particular given Sunday. According to Wikipedia (is it responsible or irresponsible to actually source Wikipedia?), Woods' character, Dr. Harvery Mandrake, was based on long-time Oakland Raiders team doc Robert Rosenfeld. Another employee on the same Raiders medical staff, Dr. Robert Huzienga, wrote a book Your Okay, It's Just A Bruise chronicling what he thought were the dangerous practices of Rosenfeld and the ways in which Raiders chieftain Al Davis condoned, if not demanded, them.

Even a former player who has no broken bones about that way Rosenfeld sent players out on the field acknowledges the same sort of dubious medical treatment:
"After your first day of training camp, there is never another day that goes by without something being wrong with you physically. The guys that could play injured. The guys that could play injured were kept around for a long time... Dr. Rosenfeld was a great guy for getting you back on the field with surgery. there were a lot of pills available to us that helped get us back on the field. I saw a lot of guys play injured, and I was one of them. But I never saw a guy play injured that didn't want to. This doctor who wrote the book - and I wouldn't even read it - is probably one of these guys that didn't belong in the Raiders organization." -Phil Villapiano, Raiders linebacker from 1971-1979 as quoted in The Super 70s
Of course, it's no surprise that NFL players play hurt and that most of them would chose to play hurt rather than not play. Nor is it a surprise that this guy is avoiding reading books. It's also not a shock that the Any Given Sunday character is based, in part, on a real person and that such was the way of life a few decades ago in pro football. There are enough former players limping/wheeling around like Earl Campbell to know that health was a short-term proposition in those days.

Anyways, I have to think that either Wood's Mandrake or some other Rosenfeld disciple is working for the San Diego Chargers these days because I can't imagine how anyone not wired that way would really allow injured outside linebacker Shawne Merriman to play football this season with two torn ligaments in his left knee.Merriman has tears in both the posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee. That is two of four ligaments shown in this wonderful artist's rendering of the insides of our knees. Two is too many torn ligaments for one knee.

It blows my mind that the Chargers are apparently allowing Merriman to decide if he plays or sits even though, according to ESPN, four out of four doctors agree that he needs knee surgery. I guess in the no-guaranteed-contract world of the NFL the Chargers can afford to send him out there and hope for the best, knowing that if the worst happens (he further injures his knee or something else because he is too slow or timid because of the knee) they have the ability to cut him. But even that run-of-the-mill NFL callousness doesn't make any sense given how young and talented Merriman is. He is 24 years old and has already been to three Pro Bowls. This is a guy that you should want to take care of. It's not like sending an older player, not long for the roster, out to play with a bad injury. This guy should be the future of the Chargers defense. Most of the team's other stars are young enough that they should be able to give it a go without Merriman on defense this season if that's what it takes to get him back healthy for the long haul.

I can see why Merriman himself would want to play. He likely thinks he is also impervious to bullets. And herpes. He is a football player who thinks he's stronger than fire and doesn't know any better. Moreover, he just watched his team's quarterback play in the 2007 AFC Championship Game with a torn ACL (another knee ligament that the higher-ups in San Diego were not overly concerned about). And, you know that a linebacker doesn't want to get out-toughed by a quarterback. Especially one named Phillip. So, I get it that the player wants to play. I just don't get it how someone with even the medical training of Dr. Nick can really be letting this happen. Maybe it's possible that Merriman is really, really fine. And that there is no way he can do further damage by playing. But I just don't see that and I don't get how organization can send him out there knowing that virtually every medical opinion that has been on the record says this kid needs surgery before playing football again. How can they explain this to their fans and the rest of the guys in the locker room if Merriman predictably gets further injured? And, who knows, if the Chargers did bench Merriman then they might find they're very own linebacking-version of Willie Beamen to lead them to the Panthean Cup.

1 comment:

metallic said...

I agree with all you've said, but this may be the reason he wants to play:

"What is the treatment for a PCL tear?
Treatment of PCL tears is controversial, and, unlike treatment of an ACL tear, there is little agreement as how best to proceed. Initial treatment of the pain and swelling consists of the use of crutches, ice, and elevation. Once these symptoms have settled, physical therapy is beneficial to improve knee motion and strength. Nonoperative treatment is recommended for most grade I and grade II PCL tears.

Surgical reconstruction of the PCL is controversial, and usually only recommended for grade III PCL tears. Because of the technical difficulty of the surgery, some orthopedic surgeons do not see the benefit of PCL reconstruction. Others, however, believe PCL reconstruction can lead to improved knee stability and lower the likelihood of problems down the road.

Surgical PCL reconstruction is difficult in part because of the position of the PCL in the knee. Trying to place a new PCL graft in this position is difficult, and over time these grafts are notorious for stretching out and becoming less functional. Generally, surgical PCL reconstruction is reserved for patients who have injured several major knee ligaments, or for those who cannot do their usual activities because of persistent knee instability."