John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Houston: Using The Internet To Diagnose Star LB’s Injury


It’s not that much of a surprise considering the swelling in his right elbow didn’t allow for an MRI o Monday, but none the less, it has been reported that Chiefs’ star outside linebacker Justin Houston probably won’t play against the Denver Broncos this weekend.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted the news, though I will urge you to keep in mind that it isn’t being officially reported by the Chiefs just yet:

The skinny on the injury is that it’s a dislocated elbow, and even though I’m not a doctor, thanks to the power of the internet (and WebMD) I can pretend to be one here on AA.

According to WebMD (a source I trust more than most doctors), here’s the type of recovery you can expect from a dislocated elbow:

Generally, this injury heals well. After watching closely for 3-5 days, the bone doctor will have you begin gentle movement exercises of your elbow. Usually, recovery occurs without any lasting effects.

That seems to be a pretty good diagnosis, though I doubt the pain would be gone and range of movement would be back in time for Sunday.

There’s something else to consider though.

Apparently there are essentially two types of elbow dislocation. For more on that, let’s turn to Daphne M. Beingessner, M.D.,who’s an Associate Professor at the The University of Washington Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Here’s what she had to say on elbow dislocation via UW’s website:

Elbow dislocations can be either simple or complex. Higher energy elbow dislocations are often associated with fractures of various parts of the elbow. These higher energy injuries are defined as “complex” elbow dislocations. An elbow dislocation is defined as “simple” if there is no associated fracture.  Simple dislocations typically do not require surgery. However when a fracture has occurred the elbow may remain unstable if surgery is not performed. The goal of treatment in both types of injury is to restore a functional range of motion and a pain-free joint for the patient.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you if Houston’s elbow dislocation was “simple” or “complex”, and in my estimation, that’s really what will matter here.

At least from what I can gather, if there was no fracture, the recovery should be quick and rather effective. Perhaps we won’t see Houston against Denver, but I would bet something valuable or noteworthy to me that we’d see him sooner rather than later. If there was a fracture though—and an MRI will show that—at least per doctor Beingessner, that could mean surgery. Here’s what she said about rehabbing from that, which would obviously be the worst case scenario:

Typically the patient cannot perform any heavy lifting activities for at least six weeks following surgery.  During the first six weeks to three months the primary focus is on regaining motion.  Following fracture healing and restoration of a functional range of motion strengthening and work-hardening (or preparing the elbow for work activities). exercises are begun. Patients may need to be off work for four to six months or longer depending on the injury and their job requirements.

Losing Houston for an extended period of time would be a huge blow for the Chiefs’ defense, so hopefully, when all is said and done, we’ll find out that Houston only suffered a “simple” dislocation.

It’s going to come down to what the MRI says though, and right now, that’s anybody’s guess.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Zombo would be Houston’s replacement. In four years in the NFL he has five sacks—four coming in 2010 with the Packers. If neither Houston or Hali can go this Sunday, look for Dezman Moses to join Zombo. He has four career sacks of his own, all coming last season, also with the Packers.

Houston has 11 sacks this season.

Tags: Dezman Moses Frank Zombo Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs Tamba Hali

  • Nicholas Wilkinson

    also, subluxation vs. luxation… luxation is the more serious one with ligament damage.

  • Mauricio Isaak

    I think it´s better that he rest to heal, in the game in denver he didnt make much diference, there´s no need to risk a bigger injurie

    • freshmeat62

      I noticed on so many plays in the Denver game, where he was just playing contain. He would make contact w/ the RT, and then pretty much just box in(that’s what they called it when I was playing about a zillion years ago), not continue any rush.

  • berttheclock

    What many forget about the play of Houston is he is very effective against the run. In fact, he was injured when he moved across the field to his right to help on a tackle of a running back. A couple of weeks ago, PFF gave him high scores for his run stopping.

  • Michael Shaw

    What the hell happened to Nico Johnson? Couldn’t he come in and play in Houston’s place instead of Zombo? I thought he was more of a pass rusher coming out of college???

    • toperspective

      This draft class sure isn’t off to a great start.

    • Jim Harper

      He has always been an inside linebacker and his strength is against the run.

  • freshmeat62

    I dislocated my elbow about 25 years ago when thrown by a horse. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to get full movement back (I never did get full movement back – maybe 90-95%), but it was weeks (I’m thinking 5-6 weeks) of daily exercises before I could get any movement in the elbow. But once it started moving, it took only maybe another week to get the full movement, to where I am today. It never hurt again after it was reset,but it was stiff and I just couldn’t move it. So long as they didn’t have to operate, I don’t see why he couldn’t play. He wouldn’t be able to wrap up, but heck, nobody does that any more anyway.