On Thursday, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert updated the status of linebacker Sean Spence, the teams third-round draft pick from last April, who suffered a serious knee injury last preseason. During his update Colbert said Spence is doing everything that the doctors and trainers are telling him to do but that there is still no timetable for his return. Colbert said that fingers are crossed that he can return, but added that an injury of that significance heals at a different pace for different people.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Saturday that Spence did damage to the peroneal nerve behind the knee when he tore his ACL and multiple ligaments nearly six months ago.
So what exactly is the peroneal nerve? It is the nerve is that is located on the outside part of the lower knee and it is responsible for transmitting impulses to and from the leg, foot, and toes. When the peroneal nerve is damaged, the muscles may become weak and condition called foot drop, which is the inability to raise the foot upwards, can occur.
Many of you might be old enough to remember former NFL running back Robert Edwards, who was originally drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft. Edwards made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, but severely injured his knee during a 4-on-4 beach flag-football game while in Hawaii.
Edwards tore his ACL, MCL and PCL, and partially tore his LCL. If that wasn\’t bad enough, he also stretched his peroneal nerve and severed an artery that supplies blood to the lower leg. He almost lost the leg as a result of his injuries. At that time there were quite a few people, including his own doctors, that thought his football career was over.
Edwards started his rehabilitation after his second surgery, but he couldn\’t pick up his foot or turn his ankle for several weeks because of the nerve damage that he had suffered. He stated in an interview that it was eight months before feeling returned in his foot.
It took a lot of hard work and rehab but Edwards managed to return to the football field in 2002 with the Miami Dolphins. That, however, would be his final year in the NFL, but he did go on to play three seasons in the CFL before retiring.
More recently, Philadelphia Eagles punter Matt McBriar overcame a foot drop condition after having surgery to remove a cyst that was found in his left leg. The cyst was reportedly the cause of his foot drop condition, however.
This certainly isn\’t something that you want to hear about happening to Spence, or anyone else for that matter. As it looks right now, he is almost certain to miss the entire offseason program and it would be surprising if he is ready by the time training camp rolls around. You would also have to think that there is an outside chance that he will never play again. Even if he does, will he be the same player?
Veteran linebacker Larry Foote, an unrestricted free agent, is expected to be re-signed this offseason and the Steelers will almost certainly address the inside linebacker position at some point during the draft or free agency.
As far as Spence goes, like Colbert said, keep your fingers crossed.