Earlier this week, Redskins GM Bruce Allen said he won’t know if Robert Griffin III will be ready for training camp until the quarterback undergoes a physical exam the morning camp begins.
RG3 is said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from major knee surgery and, in recent weeks, has been doing some light running, throwing and drill work. And the plan is for him to gradually begin ramping up the intensity of those activities.
But how will doctors know when RG3 is ready? What constitutes medical clearance? What answers will the Redskins’ medical staff seek on July 25?
“The purpose of clearance is to determine when an individual is able to safely return to their activity without a significant risk of re-injury,” Dr. Ben Shaffer said.
Although Shaffer has not examined Griffin, he has been treating and “clearing” professional athletes to return to contact sports for nearly 15 years, having served as the Capitals’ head physician since 1999 as well as stints with the Nationals and Wizards.
Under normal circumstances, Shaffer said the medical team conducting Griffin’s exam likely won’t request an MRI unless there’s a belief that something is amiss. Instead, they’ll look at a number of factors, ranging from the stability of the knee to the strength of the muscles that surround the joint.
“No. 1, he’s got to be pain-free,” Shaffer said. “No. 2, normal gait. No. 3, no swelling. No. 4, normal motion. No. 5, excellent stability. No. 6, no tenderness. And No. 7, a well-developed muscle envelop.”
Shaffer said James Andrews, the doctor who made the repairs on Jan. 9, will use all of that information in conjunction with what he knows about the integrity of the ligaments from the surgery.
“In addition to all these criteria these I enumerated, [Andrews] will also be in an position to know how the ACL looks, what the LCL looks like and what the meniscus repair looks like,” Shaffer said. “Those are the factors that would influence me when deciding whether he was cleared.”
Shaffer said there is also a time element that must be considered.
“He needs to symptom free and have a normal exam in all of those respects and only then is he potentially eligible to be cleared. But that doesn’t mean he will be,” Shaffer continued. “Because there are also time factors such as the maturation of the graft.”
Griffin and Coach Mike Shanahan are scheduled to speak to reporters Thursday at Redskins Park.