Dr. Flynn: Sorting through the Patriots’ injuries to Edelman, Gordon, Hightower and others

Good afternoon! Hope everyone enjoyed the Patriots victory over the Jets last night. Here’s a check-in on some injuries from the game.

Julian Edelman

Wide receiver Julian Edelman came up grabbing his right chest after this play late in the second quarter.

Edelman took a direct helmet hit to his right ribs and appeared to have trouble catching his breath as he exited the field. The receiver did not return to the game. While it is good news that X-rays were negative for rib fracture, the rib injury could still limit him in the days and weeks ahead.

X-rays do not pick up every rib fracture — in fact, non-displaced fractures can be difficult to see in the midst of normal overlapping heart and lung markings. The lower part of the ribs where Edelman was grabbing is made of cartilage, not bone. A fracture of that area would not show up on an x-ray, which primarily is done to look at bone. It is possible that Edelman may have more imaging today (reportedly he was going to have an MRI) depending on how he is feeling.

Best case: Rib bruise that improves over the week

Second-best case: Single non-displaced rib or rib cartilage fracture that improves enough for him to play with or without the aid of a nerve block injection and protective padding.

Worst case: Multiple rib fractures (I’m not going worst-worst which would include unknown underlying lung injury). Multiple rib fractures can pose a risk to underlying organs and generally, athletes do not play through this type of injury. Pain control can also be difficult because multiple nerve blocks are needed, which leads to further risk to the athlete. Multiple rib fractures can take 4-to-6 weeks to heal.

VIDEO DIAGNOSIS: I suspect that Edelman is in the best/second-best scenario range. I think we’ll have a better idea in the coming days how he’s trending.


Another Patriots wide receiver who required training staff attention was Josh Gordon. Late in the second quarter, soon after Edelman exited the game, Gordon went up for a catch near the sideline but bobbled it and a DPI was called. He came up from that play limping, in clear discomfort. He headed into the medical tent but quickly re-emerged. Afterward, he appeared stiff on lateral movements — I suspect it was a muscle injury, possibly a groin strain.

In the third quarter, Gordon was injured again, appearing to dislocate his left ring finger during a block play. Trainers worked on the finger for a while and he eventually returned to the game with his left 3rd and 4th fingers (ring and pinky) buddy taped. In a display of mental toughness and impressive focus, Gordon was able to play on. This reception says it all (notice he is forced to mostly use his right hand).

VIDEO DIAGNOSIS: I suspect that we will see Gordon on the injury report this week, possibly for multiple injuries. Hopefully, he can get in a good week of treatment and be ready for the Bills next weekend.


Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was favoring his left shoulder in the final quarter of the Jets matchup (massacre). I did not see a specific injury on the play, but will look at the all-22 film today and let you know if anything stands out. Hightower has a history of right shoulder labrum surgery and right pec repair. This was the other shoulder. Something to monitor going forward as Hightower has been in incredible physical shape this season and his play has reflected it.


Defensive tackle Adam Butler exited the game briefly after Chase Winovich fell onto his left lower leg in the 4th quarter. He returned to the game and looked just fine. Likely a shin bruise, probably very painful in the moment.

Injury update: Right tackle Marcus Cannon returned this week after a left shoulder injury in week 1. He was wearing a shoulder harness, which implies that he likely did suffer a subluxation of the left shoulder. Cannon was effective yesterday — not his best performance, but he did not seem to be favoring the shoulder. Good news for the offensive line, but an injury to monitor.


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

Have a question for Dr. Flynn's mailbag? You can send those to her at any time via email (, or you can Tweet them to her here.