Dr. Jessica Flynn's Mailbag

Dr. Flynn: Reading the tea leaves on Julian Edelman’s thumb injury

It looks like Tom Brady will be without his most trusted veteran receiver at the start of Patriots training camp on Thursday. Super Bowl LII MVP Julian Edelman was spotted wearing a small brace on his left thumb at a youth camp over the weekend. Multiple media outlets have reported that Edelman has a left thumb injury that occurred a few weeks ago. It has been described as a “minor trauma” that may have occurred catching a pass. His return to play has been estimated at a few (maybe 3) weeks.

In a situation like this, with no injury video or reports on the nature of the injury, I’m 100 percent speculating. I can only tell you some injuries that might fit into the recovery timeframe given. Best-case scenario, Edelman has a minor ligament sprain or fracture that will heal in 4-6 weeks (from the time of injury).

The most commonly sprained ligament in the thumb is the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). With a minor sprain during the season, a receiver could be back on the field in a few weeks. Preseason, though? I’d support playing it safe, limiting the mileage and injury risk associated with early training camp, and let the thumb fully heal.

Worst case? Edelman’s camp is minimizing a more serious injury that could linger or result in a longer recovery. For example, a tear of the UCL in the thumb could go on to require surgery. Here’s why I don’t think this is the case — the brace that Edelman was wearing over the weekend was small. He was manipulating the football and messing around with the kids with no concern. If he had been dealing with a major injury he would most likely have had surgery by now and a youth sports camp would not have been an option.

I’m not worried about Edelman’s thumb affecting his play this season. In fact, the biggest impact his injury will have is on the rest of the relatively new receiving corps who will head into training camp without Edelman’s veteran leadership. Brady is tough on his receivers in camp, expects a lot. Hopefully, a veteran voice from the coaching side can help fill that void. I was glad to hear today from ESPN’s Mike Reiss that former Patriots WR Troy Brown will stick around to help the coaching staff for at least the start of training camp. Hopefully, his experience can help the younger and less experienced receiving corps.

Speaking of … he may be a work in progress, but MAN is that training camp crowd going to go nuts when rookie WR N’Keal Harry catches his first Brady pass at Gillette. With Edelman injured, they may just get to see a few extra.


Dr. Jessica Flynn is a sports medicine physician at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass. She writes about injuries in professional sports on her blog, DocFlynn.com. You can follow her on Twitter @jessdeede.

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