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What it means to have a torn labrum

Baker Mayfield
Posted at 3:27 PM, Oct 21, 2021

CLEVELAND — There’s a chance you never heard the word ‘labrum’ until Baker Mayfield tore his. But in the sports world, these injuries are incredibly common. News 5 spoke with the Medical Director of Sports Medicine for Akron Children’s Hospital Dr. Joseph Congeni. He’s not Mayfield’s doctor, but he has a lot of experience with torn labrum injuries. He described the shoulder socket as a ball on a small golf tee.

“The labrum is a cartilage pad that actually helps hold the ball on the socket,” he said. When the labrum gets ripped, Congeni says it doesn’t heal on its own very well. It’s a feeling Tyris Dickerson knows all too well. He’s torn both his labrums.

“One freshman year of high school and then one sophomore year at high school, so back-to-back,” he said. The Notre Dame College running back was playing high school football at Archbishop Hoban in Akron when those injuries happened. He described the feeling as “a very sharp pain, like a jolt, then kind of a jerk” before the shoulder settled into a dull ache. The first time, he tried a sling for a couple weeks but ended up needing surgery sooner rather than later.

The labrum helps hold the shoulder together. When it tears the shoulder can more easily pop out of the socket.

“If it was in the middle of the season, you would not be returning that season,” Congeni said, adding the surgery has a six to eight month recovery time. That’s why some players try to play through the injury like Dickerson did his sophomore year. They hope a shoulder harness will hold things together well enough to get them through the season before surgery. We’ve seen such a shoulder harness on Mayfield since his injury. Congeni says if you look for them, you’ll see them at almost any high school, college, or pro football game.

“You’ll see that harness down below the level of their shoulder and you know that they’re a kid that’s struggling. This is a very, very common problem in the sport of American football,” he said.

But just because Mayfield is sitting out Thursday night’s game, don’t give up hope! Congeni says some players are able to return to the field with some rest and physical therapy.

“A lot of times we give it a couple of weeks so that it quiets down,” he said. “Get rid of the inflammation, try to strengthen the muscles around it again and then wear the harness and play.”

Even though Dickerson was born in Cincinnati, and roots for that other Ohio football team, he knows what Mayfield is facing right now, and knows he’ll get through it.

“He’ll be ok,” he said. “He’s been tough, he’s proven that many times.”

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