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November 16, 2019

Did the Eagles mishandle DeSean Jackson's injury? We spoke to an expert

Eagles NFL
8_11032019_EaglesvsBears_DeSean_Jackson_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson before the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field.

The dust has settled a bit but the impact of DeSean Jackson's injury is no less important as the Eagles prepare to finish the regular season without him.

After one of the best starts to a season a wide receiver can have in Week 1, the veteran speedster sat out from Weeks 2 through 8 with what was first thought to be a groin injury and later revealed as one to his abdomen. 

Jackson's decision to first try rehab — leading to the reinjury against the Bears — and then ultimately surgery has been a hotly debated topic with the Eagles slated to come off their bye week Sunday against the Patriots. Doug Pederson addressed the issue in front of the media earlier this week for the first time after Jackson was put on the Eagles' IR.

"In DeSean's case, listen, there's been a lot of discussion with DeSean from the moment he came out of the Falcons game to the decision to play in the Bears game to surgery," Pederson said. "There's a lot — we talk a lot with the player. We talk a lot with our medical staff. We even talk to external sources, third-party people, that have expertise in this area.  

"I'm not the doctor, nor did I look at MRIs or x-rays or any of that. DeSean busted his tail electively to try to get it fixed himself, to try to rehab and come back. He busted his tail. He was cleared to play. He felt good. For me as the coach, I listen to the player. I listen to what his body is telling him. Everything was a go. Then he felt something in the [Bears] game. We pulled him out, as I said after the game, for precautionary reasons. We had it checked again. Then we went down the road of surgery, which again, [there was] a lot of communication with him. 

"It's elective by the player. We support this decision. We support DeSean. He wants to be out there with his teammates. It's unfortunate that this happened, but it did. Injuries are a part of this game. Reoccurrence of injuries are a part of this game. We all know that."

Criticism was rampant, with fans wondering why Jackson didn't just opt for the surgery originally — which theoretically would have had him back at about the same time (Week 9) — but without the same risk of re-injury (although there is still some risk of re-injury). It was also debated why he returned to play just two snaps before he left the game, and whether this was a case of mismanagement by the Eagles medical team.

In order to learn a bit more about situation and the decisions the Eagles reportedly made about it, we spoke with an expert. Joel Roth is a Physical Therapist Center Manager for NovaCare as well as the head physical therapist for the Temple Owls football team. Here are his answers to some of our most glaring questions about the DeSean Jackson situation:

On the changing diagnosis:

“I believe initially they listed him with a groin strain. These core injuries, they used to call it a sports hernia — if you remember back in the day Donovan McNabb had one of them – they stepped it back, it's not really a hernia, it's not something poking through it's more like a groin strain or hamstring strain. They can mask themselves like a groin strain. 

"They then quickly realized it’s a core injury and once it’s a core injury you can do one of two things: you can go conservatively or you can have surgery."

On the initial decision not to get surgery:

"You do about 2-to-4 weeks of rehab and you see how he progresses and if he doesn’t you talk surgery. Every surgery has its own inherent risk, going under anesthesia, the recovering not going as quickly as it could, if you can go the conservative route, that’s the way to go. 

"At Temple, where I treat at the college level, you try and avoid surgery as much as possible. We do a lot of conservative rehabs and most go well. He was obviously a guy who didn’t tolerate the conservative therapy well...

"He did return for a game, his rehab went well, he just reaggravated it. When you're not playing and rehabbing, it can start to feel really good but once you get to the amount of force and speed needed for an NFL game you realize you're not there."

Was DeSean's return in Week 9 rushed?

"My instinct is one of two things happened. 'No' is my short answer. I don’t think it was. I think they do a good job of all their 'return to sport' testing to make sure he's ready. One, he was going to need the surgery no matter what, or two, he had another injury."

If the Eagles make the Divisional Round (in mid January), could DeSean play when he is eligible to come off IR?

"Him being a speed receiver, he's probably not going to say he feels 100%, but from a sports medicine perspective and from a successful surgery he will definitely be ready by then. He will feel a little something but he will be ready to go. Most guys return in six weeks but eight weeks is probably a more realistic goal."


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