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When Doctors Say Too Much

Last weekend, in the Cincinnati Bengals’ first playoff game in 15 years, quarterback Carson Palmer was badly injured on the Bengals’ second play from scrimmage. Kimo von Oelhoffen, a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, tackled him low and Palmer’s knee essentially collapsed. (The Bengals went on to lose to the Steelers, a team that happens to be my favorite, but it isn’t much fun beating another team when its star player is lost to injury.) There was a flurry of controversy over whether Von Oelhoffen’s hit was dirty (Palmer himself absolved him), but that controversy pretty much went away. Now there’s a new controversy. Palmer was flown to Houston to have knee surgery by an orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Lonnie Paulos, who after the surgery told the media that Palmer’s injury was one of the most brutal he had ever seen. “On a scale of 1 to 3, it was a 4,” he said. “It was off the chart. It was pretty badly damaged — shredded is the better term.” But Paulos has since changed his tune, calling Palmer’s injury more of a “typical … football injury.”

Why the about-face? I can think of at least three possibilities.

1. Perhaps Paulos felt he’d come a bit close to violating doctor-patient confidentiality.
2. Perhaps the Bengals or Palmer’s agent jumped down his throat for casting such a bleak future.
3. Perhaps Paulos was setting himself up to be the hero doctor who was able to fix one of the most disastrous knee injuries ever seen.