Jordan Reed, Washington’s elite tight end, suffered a Grade 3 Acromio-Clavicular (AC) joint separation during Week 12. He finished the game but, as often happens, was in more pain the day after.
On Monday, Reed said that his shoulder’s range of motion was only 30 percent of normal. The obvious question is how this will affect him for the rest of the 2016 fantasy season.
The AC joint is located on top of the shoulder. It is held in place by two strong sets of ligaments, the AC ligaments and the coraco-clavicular (CC) ligaments. A Grade 1 AC joint injury is a sprain, without significant structural damage or X-ray changes. A Grade 2 AC joint injury is a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation. In a Grade 2 injury, the clavicle is slightly elevated from the remainder of the shoulder.
A Grade 3 AC joint injury, which Reed suffered, is a dislocation with no remaining contact between the clavicle and the rest of the shoulder. Grade 4-6 injuries are rare, more severe, injuries.
I’ve heard two things repeated over and over by pundits that keep me shaking my head. The first is that a Grade 3 AC joint injury is the worst there is. Not true. As noted above, Grades 4, 5 and 6 injuries are worse, although they’re uncommon. They do, however, require surgical fixation.
The second thing I keep hearing is that ‘he can’t make it worse.’ Seriously, does that even make sense? I mean, until we’re six feet underground, there’s really nothing on our body that we can’t make worse.
Specifically, a Grade 3 AC joint separation can turn into a Grade 5 separation, which is where the clavicle (collarbone) really sticks up far. Grade 3 injuries are usually treated nonoperatively. On the other hand, Grade 5 injuries require surgical fixation. So the issue is really one of risk tolerance, i.e. significantly exacerbating the degree of injury is unlikely enough that most professional athletes elect to continue playing through a Grade 3 injury. However, most amateurs would be well-advised to allow a Grade 3 injury to ‘scar in’ before subjecting their shoulder to further trauma.
So I’m sure Jordan Reed will be back playing as soon as his shoulder allows him to do so effectively. He may miss one week, depending on pain tolerance and how well his shoulder responds to padding and pain-killing injections. Stay tuned to practice updates for his Week 13 availability.
However, Reed’s effectiveness will probably be significantly decreased by this injury for the remainder of this season. This injury will impede his ability to reach out to catch balls, especially his ability to reach over his head. He won’t be able to fight for contested catches as well. And I can’t imagine that he’ll be diving onto that shoulder for a lot of catches. So it makes sense to lower expectations for Reed’s 2016 fantasy production going forward.