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Dr. Oz says there's more than meets the MRI on back contusions

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

The back contusion suffered by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on Monday night could potentially have long-term effects while it heals, according to Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Dr. Oz, who is best known for hosting his own medical talk show, appeared on Thursday's NFL AM on NFL Network to discuss injuries by high-profile quarterbacks. Romo's back injury isn't as simple as it seems, he said.

"Sometimes it's more painful than it would appear on the outside just because you don't see the discoloration or that charlie-horse appearance for a few days," Dr. Oz said. "The bigger concern is sometimes you get so much blood buildup around the muscle that it actually squeezes the muscle and suffocates the muscle.

"It causes something called compartment syndrome. I doubt he has that just because of the location of the injury. ... It can leave you with a residual area for months or even years. You want to make sure that you allow the area to heal appropriately."

Dr. Oz explained that a contusion like Romo's involves blood mixing with muscles, which isn't a good thing.

"A contusion is basically blood that has seeped into the fat around the muscle," Oz said. "Let me differentiate that from blood that's within the muscle itself, because when it works into the muscle itself it becomes even more painful. ... These days, every football player who gets injured gets an MRI scan, so the (Cowboys) have a pretty good idea where the blood is.

"If you get a hit or contact, and you tear a muscle ... then either way you get blood. And that blood when it touches the muscle is extraordinarily painful. It causes spasms of the muscles. They don't like to be surrounded by blood that's outside of the blood vessels. That pain is substantial because it also irritates the nerves."

Dr. Oz also said while Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is returning from a dislocated ankle after missing six weeks, the injury normally takes at least eight weeks for recovery.

"The structure that holds the ankle in the socket is surrounded like a Lifesaver (candy) would," he said. "If you break a Lifesaver, you don't just break it in one spot. You've got to break it at least two places to really happen.

"When that happens, the ankle becomes a little loose. The structures holding it in place aren't where they're supposed to be. It will take quite a bit of time; not like a shoulder dislocation where you pop it back in and you don't have all the infrastructures around it. For him to come back in seven weeks is a tribute to his athletic ability.

Dr. Oz said he met Griffin at the White House last summer and he was impressed by the quarterback's drive to get back on the field.

"I would be concerned about him having a bit of an 'elastic ankle' -- a bit more likely to stretch out and potentially reinjure it," Dr. Oz said. "But that's true of a lot of orthopedic injuries."

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