The 49ers have said that Trey Lance’s injured finger should be healed enough for him to return to real practice by Monday. Do you believe them? I’m not so sure I do. In today’s Gold Standard Podcast, I tried to apply common sense to what the team has said about the injury in order to explain why things might not be so cut and dry for the third overall pick in the draft.
My first questions arose immediately after Kyle Shanahan made the initial announcement. “He ended up having a small chip on his finger,” Shanahan said, “So he’s going to be out about seven days.”
What the heck is a chip?
I immediately ran to Google to see what exactly Kyle meant. A “chip” is also called an avulsion fracture. According to the Mayo Clinic, this occurs when a small chunk of bone attached to a tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main part of the bone.
First of all, ow. Second of all, a fracture is a broken bone. Why haven’t the 49ers called it that? And what broken bone heals up in a week? Every broken bone I’ve ever heard of takes at least four weeks to heal, if not more.
Knowing I’m not a doctor, I decided to get some help. At least, as much as I could get without talking to someone that actually examined Lance in person. I went to Mike Ryan, the sports medicine analyst for Sunday Night Football on NBC to ask him about avulsion fractures in general. Mike was an NFL athletic trainer for 26 years and a physical therapist.
A chip or avulsion fracture in a finger is a small piece of bone pulled off with a ligament. Yes, the bone can heal in 6 wks. But like a pebble in your shoe, if it’s in the right location, it will feel better in 1-3 wks.— Mike Ryan (@SNFMikeRyan) August 31, 2021
Aside from my poor typing skills, that’s somewhat encouraging. At least Lance could start feeling better by Monday. That said, feeling better and actually being healed are two different things.
If Lance is going to be taking snaps Monday, that finger is going to be subjected to repeated trauma with every snap and play at the mesh point. How can it ever fully heal this season if it’s constantly taking hits in practice and games?
The other thing that popped into my head is this: if a piece of Lance’s bone was pulled off by the tendon, does that mean it’s still floating around inside his finger? Where else would it be, right? That sounds like something that would require surgery to remove.
Now, I know many of you may be thinking that I’m being ridiculous. That I’m trolling, or that I’m trying to sabotage the team (because apparently, that’s what some of you think). My point on the show was, shouldn’t these questions have been asked already?
The guy the 49ers mortgaged multiple first-round picks to get has an injured throwing finger, and we don’t know any particulars about it. We don’t know the timeline for his return beyond, “hopefully it’ll be good next Monday.” We don’t know if it can be fully healed without surgery. Hell, we didn’t even know for sure which finger it was!
The Shanahan/Lynch regime does have a history of initially downplaying injuries before making a second announcement thereafter with bad news. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that we won’t see Lance in the season opener against the Lions or in Week 2 against the Eagles — especially if the team is as careful with him as they say they’ll be.
Levin smartly pointed out on the show that the team was probably intentionally trying to be vague so they could force the Lions to have to prepare for a two-quarterback system. That makes sense, and I don’t blame the team for trying to gain every possible advantage they could. I do, however, think more of an effort should have been made to get answers to fair questions any reasonable person would wonder about.