David Chao, MD: Jets Medical Decisions Leave A Lot To Be Desired

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The Jets handling of medical issues has led to public criticism. Again.

The team is in the news this week related to how it treated the shoulder of Mekhi Becton during the Thursday night game. Now quarterback Sam Darnold is likely out for Week 5, even though he was allowed to finish the game in Week 4, following his shoulder injury.

The Jets are no stranger to recent medical controversy under the Joe Douglas and Adam Gase regime, as this will be the fifth time eyebrows have been raised on the handling and messaging of medical issues in the last year.

Becton, this year’s first-round draft pick, first appeared on the injury report before the Week 3 game and wore a shoulder harness indicating probable labral tear and other instability issues. Against the Colts, he re-injured the shoulder on an interception and left the game. Four days later, he was dressed as the “emergency” left tackle. When the starter got hurt immediately, Becton was the next one in. Soon thereafter, he reinjured it again. This was the second week in a row that he could not finish a game for the same injury.

According to video, in-game, Darnold suffered an AC joint sprain to his throwing shoulder and likely took an injection before returning to play. This toughness led me to name him my “beast of the week” on the Outkick ProFootballDoc Podcast. Now the Jets seem to be reversing field about letting their young QB play this week, and some have accused the team of being “reckless.”

To me, either it is reckless to allow him to play Thursday AND to let him play Week 5 or it was not reckless for either. In any case, the messaging and management of the injury seem confusing.

After the first game this year, Gase said he was “mad” at himself for letting LeVeon Bell return with a hamstring injury before exiting again and going on IR. 

Last year, Kelechi Osemele said he needed shoulder surgery, yet he was threatened with discipline if he didn’t practice or play.  Osemele was released by the team and fined for detrimental conduct, but then had surgery and moved on to turn the Chiefs offensive line into a power run team. The grievance likely never happened, as the Jets undoubtedly paid him his full salary as required. But the bad PR taste lingers.

Last November, WR Quincy Enunwa publicly blasted the team for fining him $27,900 for two missed rehab sessions when he was on IR after neck surgery. He called it excessive and hurtful. Whether the fines were justified or not, clearly the communication on a medical issue was lacking.

There may be a good explanation for all of these incidents.

I am not suggesting that Douglas or Gase are wrong or making any implication that the medical staff is making bad decisions. (For full disclosure, I shared a combine exam room with the Jets medical staff for almost two decades and personally know them to be of top quality.) But clearly the overall decision making process and/or the communication between player and team, as well as the team and the public, has gone awry. 

Clearly, the lines of communication and perhaps even the decision-making process regarding Jets injuries can and should be improved.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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