First, I want to clarify what this piece is not:
- This is not a medical diagnosis.There are no reports that the following is what Luck is suffering from. It is simply a theory based on the current body of evidence.
- This is not a victory lap. These NFL players are real human beings with lives outside of football.
“Luck has mentioned ‘emotional scars’ in previous interviews regarding his shoulder injury. This is a key piece of information to keep an eye on as a patient (or player’s) experience with pain can contribute to chronic conditions in the future.”
These were the last words I wrote about Luck in an injury analysis I was asked to give. Nobody could have predicted that in a matter of one week he would retire from the NFL. So, what went wrong? As we all try to wrap our heads around this from a fantasy football perspective, I’ll try to shed some light on what could be happening from a real-life health perspective.
Here are the three possibilities Luck might be dealing with:
1. His “pain wires are crossed”
Pain is an extremely complex phenomenon that we are just beginning to understand as a medical community. It turns out, the brain controls all things related to pain. When you step on a Lego, receptors on your foot called nociceptors send signals to your brain saying “Hey. There’s something going on down here, what do you think?”
The brain then responds by alerting you (or not alerting you) of the potential threat by determining that your foot is, in fact, hurting. The brain stores this painful experience and the next time you step on a Lego, the response from the brain is amplified and it seems to hurt more than the first time.
For the lack of a better phrase, people suffering from chronic pain get their “wires crossed” as the brain is too good at remembering specific experiences (it does this in order to inform you of that same threat at a much faster rate, therefore forcing you into action more quickly). Subsequently, these pain signals from the brain persist despite there being no actual threat to your body. These centuries old mechanisms are what has allowed us to thrive, but unfortunately like many medical conditions, the body can turn on itself, causing debilitating effects.
2. He has the beginnings of a more specific pain condition.
So, could Andrew Luck be suffering from a more specific chronic pain condition? There’s no way to know for certain, but we can analyze the Andrew Luck facts:
Fact 1: Luck originally suffered a calf injury almost 6 months ago.
Fact 2: At his retirement press conference, Luck mentioned he has been in “a constant rehab and pain cycle for the last four years.” He has also mentioned “emotional scars” from his shoulder rehab.
Fact 3: The reports were that his most recent MRI showed minimal structure damage.
Now for the medical facts:
Fact 1: One of the hallmarks of a specific chronic pain condition is limb pain lasting longer than 3-6 months. (reference #1)
Fact 2: A key criteria of that condition is “pain that is disproportionate to any inciting event.” (reference #2)
Fact 3: Another criterion is a lack of alternative diagnosis that better explains the signs and symptoms. (reference #2)
The full definition of the condition I’m referring to is below.
“An array of painful conditions that are characterized by a continuing (spontaneous and/or evoked) limb pain that is seemingly disproportionate in time or degree to the usual course of any known trauma or other lesion.” (reference #2)
3: The man is just tired.
This is the one I’m hoping for. The Colts finally labeled his diagnosis as a calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, and an associated high ankle sprain. For Luck’s sake, I hope this is the ultimate outcome. He’s 29 years old, recently married, and has every opportunity in the world. Often, we criticize athletes for every move they make. I personally would not blame him one bit for walking away if the passion is just gone.
So, there you have it. The three theories on what might be plaguing Andrew Luck. We all hope to see him on the field at some point again. He is a legitimate generational talent, but his health as a human being comes first, and we should all keep that in mind.
Thank you for reading.
Reference #1: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741324/
Reference #2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK464482/
Edwin Porras is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @FFStudentDoc on Twitter.