Commentary

Feeling the pain of a Brett Favre injury

Updated: December 17, 2010, 2:01 AM ET
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

FavreJed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesBrett Favre badly injured his ankle in the NFC Championship Game against the Saints in January.

Sprains, strains and fractured bones: If it aches or breaks, Brett Favre probably has endured it. Yet now that the quarterback's nearly inconceivable 297-game consecutive-starts streak finally has come to an end, it's time to ask: What if Favre weren't a professional football player?

What if he worked in a office like the rest of us?

Would his streak still seem tough?

Or would it seem ... slightly nuts?

To translate Favre's iron-man run into everyday terms, Page 2 compiled a list of the quarterback's career injuries, then ran them past a group of medical experts for perspective. Curious as to how Favre's injuries would affect you? Read on:


1. First-degree left-shoulder separation

Year: 1991

Favre file: Suffered injury against Chicago, led comeback victory over Philadelphia the next week.

Feels like: Soreness of movement when lifting your arm above your head. But otherwise, not so bad -- although a third-degree sprain entails total dislocation of the joint, a first-degree change is minor. "On a [1-10] pain scale, it's probably a 3," says Stuart Yoss, team chiropractor for the Chicago Blackhawks and a former team chiropractor for the Bears.

Standard treatment: Rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. Possibly a sling.

Average recovery time: Two to four weeks.

Weekend warrior impact: Makes sleeping and getting dressed difficult. Solution? Don't sleep or change clothes. In other words, this may be the ideal injury for "Black Ops" addicts.


2. Deep-thigh bruise

Year: 1993

Favre file: Sustained injury against Tampa Bay -- then threw winning touchdown pass on the next play.

Feels like: Potentially very painful -- think the worst charley horse of all time. Standing, walking, using stairs and even sitting can be brutal, in part because sufferers can't always straighten their knees.

Standard treatment: Ice, massage, rest and light stretching. Possibly a few days on crutches. If a collection of blood forms, a needle can be placed in the thigh to remove fluid. Yuck.

Average recovery time: One to six weeks.

Weekend warrior impact: Major impairment -- and unhappiness -- until it heals. "If this happens to a normal person, they'll be limping around and complaining to their [spouse] that they can't do anything," Yoss says.


3. Severely bruised left hip

Year: 1994

Favre file: Suffered injury against Minnesota; enjoyed bye week before playing next game against Chicago.

Feels like: Also known as a hip pointer. "It's very painful due to all the nerves that cross the hip ridge," says Dr. Cindy Trowbridge, clinical education director for the Athletic Training Education Program at the University of Texas at Arlington. "It hurts to breathe, laugh and even sit up." Other than that, Mr. Favre, how did you like the play?

Standard treatment: Requires stretching and occasional injections. Avoid walking on ice.

Average recovery time: One to six weeks.

Weekend warrior impact: Joint pounding and body-twisting activities -- such as running and golf -- are out. And since laughing is painful, you're better off avoiding free to read Page 2 during your office lunch break.


4. Severely sprained left ankle

Year: 1995

Favre file: Suffered injury against Minnesota, then set quarterback rating career high the next week versus Chicago.

Feels like: Very painful, as "severe" indicates complete tearing of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, which swells badly and can no longer bear weight. On the other hand, "the ankle turns lots of cool colors," Yoss says. Suffer for your body art!

Standard treatment: Rest, ice, elevation and anti-inflammatories. Crutches or a walking boot. Possible brace once you return to normal activities, probable rehab to prevent reinjury.

Average recovery time: Two to three months. Do not skip rehab. "Sprains that are not treated can become chronic and lead to instability of the ankle," says Dr. Gary Brazina, an orthopedic surgeon and team doctor for the Los Angeles Kings and Clippers.

Weekend warrior impact: In the short term, you can kiss rec league hoops goodbye; in the long term, you may have to remake yourself as a long-distance set shooter. "Unfortunately, when an ankle isn't fractured it usually doesn't get treated seriously in the general population," Trowbridge says. "You'll get crutches, an Ace wrap and be told to take Advil. But physical therapy is needed to restore the ankle."


5. Wind knocked out, twice, and coughed up blood

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
Harry Scull Jr./Getty Images Brett Favre was coughing up blood after this game against Pittsburgh in 1995.

Year: 1995

Favre file: Suffered against Pittsburgh but remained in game and led Green Bay to victory.

Feels like: Getting hit by a baseball bat in your gut. Hard. "It's like you're suffocating and can't catch your breath no matter how hard you try," says Dr. Stephen Hunt, a sports health specialist at Morristown Memorial Hospital in Morristown, N.J.

Standard treatment: Rest -- that is, after you've gone to the hospital and undergone a bunch of costly tests (MRI scan, X-rays, pulmonary function studies). "A potentially serious injury," Brazina says. "More likely than not, it will cause damage to lung tissue. An individual needs to be watched closely to be sure that the lung has not collapsed and bleeding is controlled."

Average recovery time: If blood indicates rib fractures, up to six weeks; if not, a couple of days. "As long as all organs are intact," Yoss adds. Right. That, too.

Weekend warrior impact: Avoid strenuous activity for a few weeks.


6. Sprained right thumb

Year: 1999

Favre file: Suffered during preseason game against Denver and played much of the season with the injury.

Feels like: Ouch. Swelling at the base of the thumb and in the palm. Reduction in grip strength. Coincidentally, a common ski injury.

Standard treatment: Ice, rest, anti-inflammatories. Also, a splint or brace is crucial, because otherwise it's almost impossible to rest the joint and allow it to heal properly.

Average recovery time: Four to six weeks -- unless there's complete instability in the joint, in which case you might need surgery.

Weekend warrior impact: You'll be back in the office the next day. But everything -- from typing to driving to opening jars -- is going to be a literal and figurative pain. "We take our thumb for granted, but his injury brings us back to being an ape," Yoss says. "Without using our opposable thumb, there is not much of a difference."


7. Right-elbow tendinitis

Year(s): 2000, 2010

Favre file: Suffered in 2000 training camp and missed three preseason games.

Feels like: Reduced grip and wrist strength. Typically mild to moderate pain. That said, the more you use the elbow joint -- practically speaking, the more you use your afflicted arm -- the more painful it becomes.

Standard treatment: Ice, anti-inflammatories, possible brace, definite rest. Maybe a cortisone injection. Possible surgery to remove scar tissue.

Average recovery time: Four to 12 weeks. As a general rule, Trowbridge says, it takes two to three times as long to recover from symptoms as it took to develop them.

Weekend warrior impact: Like a sprained thumb, elbow tendinitis -- often called tennis or golfer's elbow -- affects every aspect of daily life. "A lot of people have trouble pouring a cup of coffee," Yoss says. Oh, and no Wii bowling, either.


8. Left mid-foot sprain

Year: 2000

Favre file: Suffered when sacked against Tampa Bay, led Green Bay to victory over Indianapolis the next week.

Feels like: An injury to the arch of the foot. Mild soreness to major pain, depending on the severity of the sprain. Can't bear weight.

Standard treatment: Rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. Possibly crutches or a walking boot.

Average recovery time: One to 12 weeks. Again, depends on the severity.

Weekend warrior impact: No recreational sports for up to three months -- including golf, as rotation of the foot would be difficult.


9. Sprained lateral collateral ligament, left knee

Year: 2002

Favre file: Suffered when sacked against Washington. Recovered during bye week and wore knee brace for most of remaining season games.

Feels like: Mild to moderate pain, and a feeling of instability in the knee. The good news? Unless you're a skier or involved in full-contact backyard Thanksgiving football games, you're unlikely to suffer a sprained LCL, which usually strikes high school and college athletes.

Standard treatment: Ice, rest and crutches. A hinged knee brace. Rehab only if you ask for it.

Average recovery time: Six to 12 weeks.

Weekend warrior impact: Office and home life are fine, but activities involving running, cutting and jumping are out. In other words: It won't get you out of raking leaves. Bleah.


10. Broken right thumb

Year: 2003

Favre file: Suffered against St. Louis; after bye week, threw three touchdown passes in victory over Minnesota.

Feels like: Moderate pain, but function can be completely impaired depending on the nature of the fracture.

Standard treatment: Arm placed in a cast for four to six weeks, followed by a splint for a few additional weeks. Next comes rehab to improve range of motion and strength. After that, you'll still be sore.

Average recovery time: Six weeks. Four months if surgery is required.

Weekend warrior impact: No sports until fully healed. Cast makes typing difficult. Anything that requires gripping is a no-no.


11. Softball-sized bruise, left hamstring

Year: 2004

Favre file: Suffered against Indianapolis; threw four touchdown passes in a loss.

Feels like: Very painful. Bending knee and flexing hip are difficult. Also, it's visually disconcerting. "Normally, it starts as black and blue from bleeding within the muscle," Yoss says. "Then it will turn yellow and green. What freaks most people out is that gravity starts pulling the blood down towards the feet, and bruising starts to occur in areas lower than where the injury occurred. That means there is some good muscle tearing happening." Um, isn't that bad muscle tearing?

Standard treatment: Rest, ice and compression.

Average recovery time: Seven to 10 days to walk without pain; at least six weeks to return to athletic activity.

Weekend warrior impact: Rising from a chair is tough -- and sadly, the NFL RedZone channel broadcasts for only a half-dozen hours every Sunday.


12. Concussion (described as "mild")

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/David StlukaA hit by the Giants' William Joseph knocked Favre out of the game in 2004.

Year: 2004

Favre file: Suffered against New York Giants; famously re-entered game and threw a touchdown pass before team forced him to sit.

Feels like: If you're lucky, a headache that lasts for a few days; if you're unlucky, dizziness, sleep loss and emotional changes due to brain bruising.

Standard treatment: Rest; no return to play until all symptoms are gone.

Average recovery time: Days to months. No two concussions are alike.

Weekend warrior impact: Hard to concentrate; light sensitivity; nausea; working on a computer may cause and/or exacerbate a headache. "Some symptoms last for a long time," Trowbridge says. "Slow reaction time, concentration issues and balance issues are often the worst." Decision-making and driving ability also may be impaired.


13. Sprained right hand

Year: 2004

Favre file: Suffered against Dallas; led Green Bay to victory.

Feels like: Pretty painful if you're right-handed.

Standard treatment: Ice and a brace to protect the injured hand.

Average recovery time: Two weeks in the brace; about four weeks total.

Weekend warrior impact: Anything you do with your right hand, you'll have to switch to your left. Even mouse-clicking.


[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/David StlukaBrett Favre grimaces as he walks off the field after getting injured against the Patriots in 2006.

14. Injured ulnar nerve, right elbow

Year: 2006

Favre file: Suffered against New England and left game. Lost game next week against Seattle.

Feels like: Repeatedly hitting your funny bone. A tingling, painful sensation up and down the arm. Numbness of the small and ring finger. Can cause arm and hand muscles to become weak. Severe injuries can cause permanent hand paralysis.

Standard treatment: Stretching exercises and avoiding elbow irritation can alleviate the tingling. Splinting the arm during sleep can reduce tension on the nerve. Chronic irritation may require surgery.

Average recovery time: Varies. If surgery is required to release a compressed nerve, add two to three months.

Weekend warrior impact: Similar to tendinitis.


15. Bone spurs, left ankle

Year: 2006

Favre file: Uncertain when Favre first experienced problems; had surgery after 2006-07 NFL season.

Feels like: Very painful if the injury is near nerves or soft tissues such as muscle and tendon. Also counts as chronic, annoying problem -- any time you put the ankle in a particular position, you'll feel pain. Often caused by arthritic degeneration in the joint due to overuse and trauma.

Standard treatment: Avoid the particular position or have surgery to remove the spurs. Painkillers can mask the hurt.

Average recovery time: Six to eight weeks of immobilization after surgery, followed by three to four months of rehab.

Weekend warrior impact: Simply put, you'll be hobbled.


16. Torn right biceps

Year: 2008

Favre file: Suffered over the final five games of the season, in which Favre threw nine interceptions and quarterbacked the New York Jets to a 1-4 mark.

Feels like: Sufferers will often hear a snap and may be able to feel a divot within their biceps. Ewwww. Hurts pretty bad when you have a partial tear; if and when the muscle tears completely, the injury curiously feels a lot less painful.

Standard treatment: Varies. Biceps tears can reduce function, but not always in severe fashion. "Most people walking around with a frayed biceps tendon may not even know it," says Dr. Allston Stubbs, who has worked with the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Rockies, the U.S. ski team and Duke University athletics. "The pain is more a problem than the lost functionality. The majority of people are able to compensate. Sometimes it's more of a cosmetic problem than a functional problem. A full tear can make you arm look like Popeye's. Rupturing the muscle is actually how you cosmetically enhance the biceps." As a general rule, tears located near the shoulder require surgery less often than tears by the elbow.

Average recovery time: If surgery is required, at least six months. Full recovery can take an entire year.

Weekend warrior impact: Wearing a sling is inconvenient; participating in recreational sports is a no-go until full elbow flexion and extension and full shoulder motion return. Thankfully, playing fantasy football is A-OK.


17. Pulled groin

Year: 2009

Favre file: Suffered injury in practice; subsequently played against Green Bay and Detroit.

Feels like: Depending on severity, between mild and purgatory, as most movements with your legs become painful. "It can be a harbinger of a more serious injury, such as a labral tear in the hip," says Dr. Peter Millett, a shoulder specialist and team physician for the U.S. ski team. "Alex Rodriguez and Kurt Warner both suffered from that."

Standard treatment: Ice, rest and anti-inflammatories. Extra caution that you don't return to activity too soon, because groin pulls are easy to reinjure.

Average recovery time: One to six weeks.

Weekend warrior impact: Getting in and out of cars is especially painful.


18. Stress fracture, left ankle and avulsion fracture
of calcaneus (heel area)

Year: 2010

Favre file: After injuring ankle in NFC Championship Game against New Orleans, reinjured joint against Green Bay on Oct. 24; played next week against New England.

Feels like: "This hurts!" Yoss says. "Every time you take a step, you're going to feel this one."

Standard treatment: Walking boot for four to six weeks. Limited activity for at least eight weeks. Formal rehab to make sure the calf and Achilles tendon are flexible enough to take tension off the calcaneus.

Average recovery time: Two months.

Weekend warrior impact: If your "Madden NFL" skills are rusty, now's the time to brush up.


19. Sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint, right shoulder

Year: 2010

Favre file: Finally forced to miss start versus New York Giants.

Feels like: Very, very painful. Swelling and tenderness in the front of the chest. The SC joint attaches the collarbone to the breastbone -- in essence, the arm to the body -- which means most upper-body motions are affected. Worst case scenario: An unstable collarbone can compress major blood vessels, including the jugular vein and aorta.

Standard treatment: Requires careful evaluation by a specialist. Less severe cases require ice, anti-inflammatories, wearing a sling for a few weeks and rehab with range-of-motion exercises. More severe cases require surgery to rebuild torn ligaments.

Average recovery time: Three weeks to more than three months.

Weekend warrior impact: Your status as a jeans-wearin', backyard football all-time quarterback may be in doubt. "It's typically an extremely difficult injury from which to recover fully," Millett says. "Especially for an overhead-throwing athlete."

Additional thanks to Dr. Joshua Zimmerman of the Human Motion Institute at Raritan Bay Medical Center, Dr. Bill Moutzouros of the Henry Ford Medical Group, Dr. Patrick McCulloch of the Methodist Center for Sports Medicine in Houston and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for cataloging many of Favre's career injuries and subsequent performances.

Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.

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