HARRIS: RG3, Bryce Harper should be fine, but knee injuries still a bit scary

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Watching Robert Griffin III work out inside the Redskins’ practice facility this week, it was hard to picture a scenario in which he wouldn’t take the team’s first snap of the 2013 season. Barring a setback in his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury, RG3 certainly looks on track to be ready by September.


SEE ALSO: CAMPBELL: Kyle Shanahan still selling RG3 on zone read’s benefits


Despite the pictures circulating of Bryce Harper wearing a bulky knee brace, it was also refreshing to learn that his visit to see Dr. James Andrews didn’t produce the kind of bad news those visits seem to regularly bring. The Nationals’ original diagnosis of bursitis in the left knee of their franchise’s standout was confirmed. Though it doesn’t look as if he’ll be back in a matter of days, it does look like he’ll be back before too long and none the worse for wear.

The Skins and Nats plan on RG3 and Harper being key components for an awfully long time, something the local fan base wouldn’t mind. They’ve already shown how good they are and even with all they’ve done, they’re nowhere near as good as they can be. They’re the type of athletes you hope can hang around for a very long time.

There’s no solid reason to expect they won’t become fixtures.

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper left Monday night's game in the fifth inning after a gruesome collision with the right field scoreboard at Dodger Stadium as he attempted to catch a fly ball. (Associated Press photo)

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Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper left Monday night’s game in the fifth ... more >

Except for those knees.

Knee injuries, despite all the advances made in knowledge, technology, rehabilitation and more, are scary things. They never seem to totally go away.

More than 30 years ago, orthopedic surgeon Richard Caspari caused a bit of an uproar when he told The Richmond News Leader that the knee was “God’s little screw-up.” Caspari knew his knees. Among his patients was gold medal-winning gymnast Mary Lou Retton. His point, while maybe stated a bit indelicately, was that the knee wasn’t designed very well for the types of stress put on it by the human body — particularly the human body participating in sports.

At the time of his remarks, knee injuries and their rehabilitation seemed to be in the dark ages compared to now. Arthroscopic surgery, much less invasive than regular surgery, was in its infancy. The idea of coming back and playing only nine months after anterior cruciate ligament surgery was laughable. Medical and technological advances have made knee injuries much less scary, much less of an impediment to a long and successful career.

Still, a knee is a knee. Only 23, RG3 has already has his right knee rebuilt twice. Maybe, hopefully, it never happens again. Or maybe it indicates a long career is not in the offing.

And while his is nowhere near as severe, Harper dealing with a knee problem at such an early age brings up yet another parallel to an all-time great with whom he is sometimes compared. Mickey Mantle dealt with knee troubles the entirety of his career.

Mantle was patrolling right field for the Yankees in the 1951 World Series as a 19-year-old. He stopped suddenly in pursuit of a fly ball because he noticed center fielder Joe DiMaggio was in position to make the catch. Mantle’s cleat got caught in a drain and his right knee was never quite the same.

The injury, and some others that followed, didn’t keep him from having one of the best careers anyone has ever enjoyed. He hit 536 home runs. He was the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times. He was selected to 20 All-Star games (there were two in some seasons). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974. Hard to believe he could have been much better on good knees, though maybe he could have?

If Harper’s career matches Mantle’s to the numbers, can anyone complain? Let’s just hope he can do it without further damage to his knees.

RG3 also has a knee-injured compatriot in the history books. Joe Namath, the same Broadway Joe who guaranteed and then delivered a New York Jets victory over the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl, suffered a major knee injury in college at Alabama. His knees bothered him throughout his career. He played in five Pro Bowls, threw for 27,663 yards. Hard to believe he could have been much better on good knees, though maybe he could have?

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