Fantasy Football: Early February Update on Cam Newton’s Shoulder
About a month or so ago, I published an article here on the Fantasy Footballers regarding Cam Newton and his troublesome right shoulder. In the last 2-3 weeks, there has been some very important news that has come out that will certainly affect how fantasy football owners should be viewing the Panther quarterback moving forward. For the purposes of this article, I won’t go into detail about the anatomy of the injury, as I discussed that in my first article released at the start of the year. Go back and read that article for a refresher on what I was seeing on tape when watching Cam in November and December of 2018.
Cam recently underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his injured right shoulder on January 24. When the doctor goes into the shoulder through the scope, the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc.) are spared, for the most part, making the surgery minimally invasive. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the procedure is harmless or minor by any means. For example, athletes who have their ACL reconstructed or rotator cuff repaired, have the surgery done via the scope. So, the term, “arthroscopic” doesn’t always mean the surgery is no big deal. Sometimes, it is a big deal. Sometimes, it’s not.
At the time of the procedure, other medical professionals, including myself, were concerned about the integrity of Cam’s rotator cuff and the associated tendons. However, recent details have emerged that neither the rotator cuff nor the labrum were damaged, which is huge news for Newton. If either of these two structures was involved, Cam would have been facing a big rehab assignment and a 6-9 month recovery timeline, putting his status for the start of the 2019 season in question.
Fortunately for Newton, his recent shoulder surgery was done as more of an exploratory procedure where the doctor goes in to look at what is happening on a structural level. Despite the amazing accuracy of MRIs, they are never 100% accurate, hence the need for the occasional exploratory procedure. The doctor will look through a small camera at all the relevant structures to evaluate any tears, damage, or injury and develop a plan based on what’s found.
Cam’s Own Words
Let’s turn to what Cam Newton, the athlete himself, is saying about his shoulder, his surgery, and his recovery. Newton recently started his own YouTube channel, and in his first post (which you can watch below), he highlighted the physical and mental struggles of playing through injury in 2018. “As the season kept progressing and going forward, I knew the status of my arm was still uncertain…My body and my shoulder, in particular, was just nagging all year…I just knew it hurt and I knew it was an issue… like I couldn’t throw the ball more than 30 yards.”
In the video on the morning of his surgery in late January, he said “Today’s main goal is to go in the shoulder joint…from labrum to rotator cuff and clean up everything around it.” What Newton is describing is irritation and debridement, later confirmed by his nurse in the video. The debridement is a fancy term for the “clean out” procedure that usually is discussed by the media. When done in isolation, the rehab and recovery required for this type of procedure are pretty minimal, and because there are no tissues that are repaired or fixed, Cam won’t have to be as cautious in his rehab when regaining his range of motion and strength. However, it will still take a couple of months for him to return to throwing without limitation. All in all, this is favorable news for Newton and his chances of returning to the field with success in 2019 and beyond.
Also in the video, Newton’s surgeon tells him that the “cartilage damage was not as extensive as we had feared.” This quote suggests that the articular cartilage, which covers the ends of bones (see below) was damaged. Given that there is now confirmed cartilage injury, there is a good chance that Cam will develop more arthritis in the shoulder joint as his career progresses.
For redraft purposes, Cam should be able to return to form in 2019. However, don’t be surprised to see the Panthers continue to be cautious with their franchise quarterback during the off-season. After all, this is his second surgery on his throwing shoulder in less than two years. However, this is not an Andrew Luck type of situation. Newton will be throwing during the team’s off-season program and be healthy heading into Week 1.
From a dynasty perspective, I am personally moving away from Newton due to concerns regarding his long-term health of the throwing shoulder. The number one predictor of future injury is a prior injury. He’s now got two shoulder injuries in his history: a rotator cuff repair in 2017 and an arthroscopic debridement in 2019. With that being said, it won’t shock me if Cam experiences future shoulder issues towards the end of his career given the recurring injury we’ve seen to this point and arthritis that is present in his shoulder joint. Combine this with the fact that he places himself at an increased injury risk due to the exposure he faces when rushing the ball, and it’s hard to believe that Cam will be the type of guy that plays until he is in his late 30’s.
- Cam will be throwing during the offseason program
- He will be ready for Week 1 in 2019
- Given the arthritis and prior shoulder surgeries, Cam’s long-term health remains a concern
- Owners may want to consider getting out from Newton in dynasty leagues given the likely shortened career projection