I spoke with Dr. David Chao about Dontari Poe's surgery for a herniated disc and the recovery associated with that. Dr. Chao is a former NFL team physician for 17 years and has made a name for himself as @ProFootballDoc where he discusses sports injuries in real time.
Chao claims to have insider knowledge about sports injuries -- not insider information. He is not Poe's doctor nor has he seen him so he's not dealing with inside information -- only the Chiefs would know that -- but he has worked in the business for nearly 20 years so he has knowledge of how these things work.
With that said, I asked Dr. Chao a few questions about what a typical recovery for a surgery on a herniated disc entails.
The first month of rehab will see the patient very sore and going through pain management after a surgery that goes finger length deep in the back. That's where Poe is right now after having his surgery on July 15.
"The best news about the surgery is that you're not waiting for anything to truly heal," Dr. Chao said. "You're just waiting for recovery from soreness. The bad news is the disk is really deep down in your back ... it's really deep and you need to affect a lot of muscle to get there."
Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said this week that Poe was in Memphis but not doing much rehab or treatment right now, which lines up with the first month of recovery.
The second month is rehabbing the core muscles while the third month is getting into game shape.
Rehab could go much better or much worse than expected but three months sounds like a typical recovery period for a player. That would put Poe's return around October 15 or between Week 5 and 6, which matches up with the timeline that Andy Reid hinted at with him returning "in the early part" of the season.
What's potentially working against Poe is his size. He's around 350 pounds and needs every bit of leverage when he's in the trenches. Dr. Chao said that since big guys carry a lot of weight it puts more force onto the area.
What's potentially working for Poe, in my non-medical opinion, is that he's a freak of nature. Men his size aren't supposed to move the way he does or have his endurance so I'm interested to see how his recovery goes.