ProFootballDoc: This NFL Draft Is About Quarterbacks And Their Medical Issues

The draft is one week away, and quarterbacks are set to dominate. At least the top three spots will be signal callers. Many of the QBs come in with medical issues, including presumptive No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, and Justin Fields also has a seizure disorder.

Here is a breakdown of the top quarterbacks and their injury issues:

Justin Fields – His main injury, which he sustained during the CFP semi-final win over Lawrence and Clemson, played out on national TV and created controversy. However, it also showed his toughness, as he played through after receiving an in-game injection in the medical tent for rib and/or hip pointer issues. None of this is a medical concern going forward. Neither are his previous index finger fracture or thumb sprain. Even reports of epilepsy should not derail his ranking. A number of NFL players, like Hall of Famer Alan Faneca, took medication to control seizures. Despite the discussion about his health, there do not seem to be any medical worries that will affect his draft status.

Mac Jones – There is little medical information on him, and the limited examinations during the abbreviated Combines make this a unique situation with some potential for concern. Rumors have floated about that Jones has issues with his throwing elbow. There has been nothing formally reported in the media, but the fact remains he did get an MRI to evaluate that elbow and his ulnar collateral ligament. I have not seen any issues with his throwing or mechanics on video. Certainly, I am not failing Jones on his physical, but the team that selects him should take a careful look at him for the risk of potential Tommy John surgery in the future.

Trevor Lawrence – Normally a QB with recent shoulder surgery would cause a lot of consternation before the draft, but not in this case. Lawrence has been the presumptive No. 1 overall selection for years and still will be, despite the left non-throwing shoulder surgery. It is something he played through, but the surgery indicates a labral tear and instability. He did not attend the limited medical portion of the Combines as he got married that weekend. It is likely the Jaguars medical staff were the ones asked to review his case and conduct a telemedicine visit. Lawrence will not be fully cleared until training camp. Normally, the surgery would affect the offseason program, but given the pandemic and the NFLPA citing safety issues, the voluntary OTAs will have limited attendance. My guess is Lawrence will still do enough to learn the new system and what normally would be a big concern will actually turn out to be a small one.

Trey Lance – The projected first round QB out of North Dakota St. has played in one game since being seen on crutches in February of 2020. The injury has not been detailed and is said to date back to high school although he completed the 2019 season before the procedure. Any worry here stems from lack of information and the fact that he only played one game in 2020 as Trey Lance didn’t opt out due to COVID-19 but his school decided to perform a one-game fall season. His 2019 season was perfect as he threw for 28 touchdowns and no interceptions while running for another 14 scores. We are sure he was thoroughly examined at the limited Combines and we have not heard any worries about him medically.

Kyle Trask – Foot concerns are the key here. Trask has a history of fracture and surgery on both sides. Piecing together the injury history, he likely has had Jones 5th metatarsal stress related fractures on the left in 2017 and the right in 2018. The bad news is this pattern of injury is a concern. The good news is, assuming the screws were well placed and the fractures are completely healed, he has had it on both sides so there is no further worry. The concern is for refracture if not completely healed. That unfortunately happened to Chargers safety Derwin James, as we documented in a preseason injury preview. 

Zach Wilson – This may be the biggest injury concern among the QB draft class. Any time there is throwing shoulder surgery, there is concern. Based on my medical detective work, Wilson likely had a posterior labrum repair of this throwing shoulder in early 2019 but has returned to play well. The injury reportedly stemmed from high school and would allow him to throw but caused pain landing on the shoulder. Video of the type of brace/sling used post-operatively along with the reports of symptoms lead me to conclude that this is a rather unusual type of labral injury. It is interesting the Jets have stated the late trade of Sam Darnold was because they wanted to see the draft QBs throw in person first, but the trade happened before the Jets got to examine Wilson’s shoulder in person. Obviously, he can throw and play football. The concern is what happens when he takes multiple NFL hits, which increase the risk of recurrence to his throwing shoulder. He has shown toughness returning from in-season thumb fracture surgery in 2019. It seems clear the Jets will draft him at No. 2 overall. Hopefully the shoulder will be a forgotten issue and never act up again.

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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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