Tonight the streak for consecutive starts has ended for Brett Favre. Just prior to their game against the New York Giants, the Minnesota Vikings listed their starting quarterback as inactive. The seemingly indestructible quarterback has played through many injuries in his career, including several this season, but after 297 consecutive starts over 19 seasons, Favre sits tonight.
Favre was injured last week in the Vikings’ game against the Buffalo Bills. Bills’ linebacker Arthur Moats drove Favre to the ground early in the game. His injury was officially listed as a shoulder sprain, although many reports more specifically described it as a sternoclavicular injury.
The sternoclavicular joint is the joint between the clavicle (collarbone) and the sternum in the front of the chest. The injury usually results from a direct blow to the chest or shoulder or having the shoulder driven into the ground. It is most commonly injured as a dislocation, where the end of the clavicle pops out in front of the sternum (more commonly) or behind the sternum (less commonly). While it is possible that Favre suffered only a sprain of this joint, meaning that he partially injured the ligaments of this joint without having the bones pop out of place, it is also possible that he dislocated the sternoclavicular joint.
I suspect that Favre may have suffered an anterior sternoclavicular dislocation, where the end of the clavicle pops out in front of the sternum. Favre reportedly told ESPN’s Ed Werder that he had a knot the size of a golf ball between his neck and collarbone. An anterior dislocation of this joint would produce a large cosmetic deformity with the end of the clavicle being more prominent. Fortunately an anterior dislocation produces only a cosmetic deformity. While it is painful initially, the joint is usually not treated surgically, as the cosmetic appearance is the only lingering issue. Playing with an anterior dislocation could be difficult as it is painful for days to weeks. It is also difficult to use the shoulder and arm until the pain subsides and the strength improves.
While it is difficult to know the true extent of the injury, Favre’s history of playing through injuries and starting so many games in a row in the NFL speaks to how debilitated he must be. This injury usually takes 4-6 weeks for the motion and strength to improve enough to perform the duties required to be an NFL quarterback. How much of the remainder of what is supposed to be Favre’s last season he is able to play remains to be seen.