Percy Harvin The Mysterious Health of a $65M Albatross



This isn't a post thrashing Harvin or Seattle. I’ve just come across a wonderfully explained theory about Harvin that is vastly different than the "malingerer-malcontent" narrative. I encourage you to consider it carefully. It's written by a Viking fan, a neurologist. The author unintentionally paints a very sympathetic picture of the man while raising some pertinent thought provoking issues. He posted it on the Vikings SBN site, The Daily Norseman, about 6 months ago, link here. He was paying a close eye to the saga of Harvin's ankle from a year ago. He began to compile the history as it began, as it quickly became very murky and mysterious. If his theory has any merit it could be related to Harvin's now murky and mysterious hip saga, as well. His has more links; mine links to his and has more jokes. Take yer pick.

Let's start by recapping the circumstances of Harvin's ankle injury, the one that put him on the IR. It appears his ankle might not have been injured very badly and that the Vikings believed his ankle to have been healed, but Harvin still had pain. There was screaming and yelling and then they put him on the IR, despite a healthy ankle. Why? Well, let's ask that question and see where it goes.

In a game against Seattle on Nov. 4th, 2012, Harvin hurts his ankle, he tries to return but cannot. (I can't find film of it. Usually by watching an injury it's pretty easy to predict the diagnosis and recovery. Of note, there's no mention of "high ankle" in post game notes, so it's likely a moderately severe basketball-type roll over). So, it's a bad sprain but Coach comes out and says Harvin will return in 2 weeks based upon the MRI, which is hard to wildly misinterpret in ligament tears, so it's of interest when Harvin doesn't return to practice for 3 weeks... then 4 weeks... and then is unceremoniously placed on season-ending IR a month after the injury, Dec. 5th. Not even an echo of discussion of surgery has leaked, no 2nd or 3rd MRIs, really no word on further testing at all. The Vikings seemingly announced his ankle as 100% healthy at one point, then quickly went mute as if avoiding to draw attention to those words.

So this fan, he deals with people who suffer from migraines and neurological disorders, as we'll discuss. There's something about Harvin's plight that immediately resonates with his practice. So he writes the post in which he went on to explain some things about migraines and associated neurological dysfunctions. I'll paraphrase it and continue it.

The writer's theory is based upon the fact that Harvin has suffered from migraines between ages 10-22. Migraines are really screwy things. Most of us associated them with headaches, really bad ones. But not all are like that, in fact, each person is pretty unique, and some don't report pain at all but other oddities like partial blindness, tingling, numbness, or other acts of the brain that go unexplained and remain poorly understood. However, when migraine suffers experience symptoms we most often associate with them, things like massive headaches and hypersensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, strong odors, etc, this cluster of symptoms is called "central sensitization". Harvin is apparently one of these types. For these patients, it is possible that such hypersensitivity progressively begins to occur in between migraine episodes. Then, in sort of a feed-forward mechanism, this hypersensitivity can begin to take on a life of it's own outside of migraine episodes all together. Even if they never have another migraine. In this way, central sensitization can evolve to become a lifelong tendency toward symptoms of pain and discomfort, wholly separate from migraines. This is a condition a neurologist would deal with. The idea is that such a dysfunction could latch on to other physical ailments, even a minor injury, like a sprained ankle, perhaps. Causing greater distress than should be due, which may linger long after the body has otherwise healed. Like ongoing inexplicable pain, for instance. The kind of thing that could cause coaches and player's to fight and send a sprained ankle or a healthy hip to the IR.

We don’t really know much about the brain, or pain, or migraines. Which is why this concept is so interesting. It's not something that may come immediately to mind for even a general surgeon, let alone a team doctor inspecting an ankle sprain. Because we have so little objective measures of pain, the central tenet to assessing pain is "it is what the patient says it is". Health providers are sort of stuck if a person is experiencing pain whose cause can't be identified by objective clinical exam. Nor do we know what exactly causes migraines so we certainly don’t know how to cure them, though some medications have proven helpful in managing symptoms. Treatment is pretty much to avoid triggers. My sister gets migraines from artificial sweeteners, for instance, but it’s not her only trigger, and whatever triggers she does know of she understands that she has yet to discover all of them. She lives in dread of the day she stumbles upon yet another trigger. So, when somebody tells you that Harvin will never have another migraine because his sleep apnea was cured, well, that’s not even really the point here. Even if he never has another migraine, a neural dysfunction could persist in other forms. As in a lingering, debilitating, post-injury pain. Coming full circle.

In regards to the media reports around Harvin's original ankle injury, Stephen Curry fans know it can be a turning, twisting plight. But Harvin went from "he'll be back in 2 weeks" after the initial MRI to "we've placed him on IR" in just one month. In Green Bay right now Aaron Rodgers is getting a bone scan with every meal, but in Minnesota, "MVP" Harvin got just that first MRI, as far we know, and nothing more was said about further testing. The lack of reports regarding further testing, and no talk of surgery, suggest an initial MRI that showed conclusively a moderately sprained ankle. Then there are the reports of Harvin fighting with his coaches about it, which suggest disagreement on the health of the ankle, or the pain that was preventing him from playing. As if the Vikings were convinced it was healthy and he should be practicing, while he was trying to convince them "it just hurts".

Now, if you are sensing there's merit to this central sensitization theory of Harvin's ankle, and you are like me, you are beginning to feel a bit sympathetic to the guy. On one hand, football is about results and nobody cares why you cannot play, just that you cannot. But on the other hand, his whole identity, his dedication to his profession, is being questioned for what could be an issue nobody understands. Or cares to. And if you aren't sensing that, if you think his ankle could have been severely injured, consider the truckload of money Seattle gleefully dumps into his swimming pool. 3 drafts picks and $25M, at least, for a WR who's basically still on IR when they sign him? Seattle's doctor's can't be that stupid, they aren't going to sign an even remotely possible bum ankle to that kind of deal.

This tells us, whatever put him on IR was now clinically, anatomically, 100% healthy. So now Harvin is heading to Seattle, for top 5 money for his position, and comes up with yet another mysteriously, long-lasting, painful injury. This is where our neurologist friend's theory begins to make a lot of sense.

Harvin is one day running full speed in Seattle at OTA’s, a few days later he feels hip discomfort, and a few days after that gets an MRI. His hip labrum is torn. Seattle doctor's tell him he does not need surgery. But he wants a second opinion, because it hurts, dammit. So he seeks out the surgeon who does more hip labrums than anybody anywhere, 500 arthroscopic labrum repairs a year, and Harvin quickly goes under the knife. He goes on PUP, comes back like week 10, plays a few snaps, says it hurts, and now he's back on IR.

On that, the neurologist points to a 2012 orthopedic study, here. These doctor's randomly selected otherwise healthy people without any complaints of hip pain or discomfort whatsoever and did a MRI on one of their hips. Surprisingly, they found minor labral tears in 69% of subjects. In plain language, tears can be "normal" in both incidence and in function. If we applied the Harvin Hip Surgery Standard to the entire Seahawk roster there'd be about 50 players getting hip surgery tomorrow. This is likely why their doctor’s did not recommend surgery; because, anatomically speaking, he likely did not need it. Harvin has always complained of hip tightness or such soreness, so it's conceivable that he heard the word "tear" and decided he'd like to get a "tune-up" like a Hollywood actor gets a lift. Whatever his motivations were, his team is again heading into the playoffs and Harvin is again mysteriously unable to go. His hip issues are now worse even though the surgery seemed to be a success.

And that is sort of the gist of this post. Maybe just another way to contemplate the lives of athletes, especially injured ones. It's just that the reports of the severity of his injuries don't add up to the outcomes. But if you consider this central sensitization theory, it not only explains much of that, but also all the other junk too. The drama with Minnesota's coaches, the gamble by Seattle, and the sage from there to here.

But what's really fun for NN to consider, is what a wonderful mess Seattle finds themselves in now... and how bad it could get. *rubs hands

This really hits them is in the heart of their organization. You have to wonder if Harvin will ever be the guy they hope him to be. It's legit. He’s a Ferrari that’s been been though a monster truck rally. The mechanic says he's fine but he says he can't race. It's the sort of bad-luck trade that can really hang around a franchises neck. Additionally, consider how we cut bait on AJJ after 1 year. I got the feeling that Harbaalke fought about AJJ, and didn't like fighting, so they removed the problem. Even as a 1st round pick they could afford to do that. But Harvin is way more expensive, and tricky. There will be more to come in this saga.

The Percy Harvin Dilemma could shape the NFCW landscape considerably. I mean, if he really is that good he is a major problem. We are familiar enough with the Thunderdome fast-track up there to know that an extremely fast offensive weapon does not help the rest of our division. Fortunately for us, his injury history file is so thick Russell Wilson could stand on it to reach the cookie jar on the fridge. So things are looking bleak for Harvin and Seattle.

We also know that we are in an arms race, and in that context, money matters. Gotta have draft capital and cap space to keep pace. I believe they gave up last year's 1st rounder and a future 3rd and 7th, plus at least $25M guaranteed. Seattle still has to manage Harvin and this HUGE contract through FA and the Draft, and keep their talent, with less room for error, and possibly even without Harvin at all.



Imagine if they actually have to replace Harvin on top of everything else.

So now we are struck by how this might limit their ability to re-seed their talent. We already know their franchise is a step behind in signing their top talent. Some people say we are in the same boat. It’s not my area of interest but as far as I can tell, we very much aren’t. Our choice should boil down to a stud WR or a stud Left Guard – both of whom are a bit down this year, with injuries and what not, likely making them cheaper. Our FO has nicely cleaned up the overall money situation, paid our top guys because they've been here, and inserted many team-friendly incentive-laden deals. We are in great position. Meanwhile, they not only have a lot of dead money even before Harvin, they also have some pricey mercenaries who play big roles, and some of their best young players are up for contract as most of them arrived during the last 3 years of rebuilding.

You know they could end up wanting to "AJJ" this guy but they can't afford to toss him out. They have lot's of tough choices and lot's of ego's to make them. There's a time-bomb ticking in here somewhere. An expensive, shiny time-bomb. That likes to scream at coaches. On a team full of loud mouths. And they also have a drug problem. And the refs have caught on. And defenses might have figured out that short guys don't like to throw over the middle.

There’s a lot here. And if you go over to the DN and read the link, that’s a lengthy read as well. But it is very nicely done and contains a wealth of information and links too. The final interesting bit is the guy penned it back in July, before the hip stuff really started, having to addendum that onto it. Even back then he was able to compile a good case in regards to placing Harvin on IR. By the way it was handled by the Vikings it is seemingly evident that they knew his ankle was healthy, that this was a neurological dysfunction or malingering, as far as they knew.

And if Minnesota truly was aware of these things, it also means, as it turns out, the Vikings completely fleeced Seattle way worse than we thought they already had. Ha. Happy Holidays!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

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