For Anthony Miller, it’s not a matter of if he is going to have off-season shoulder surgery; it’s just a matter of when. Miller’s left shoulder problems date back to his days in college while playing for the Memphis Tigers. He first injured his shoulder during his early days in west Tennessee, which forced him to miss all of 2014 with a right shoulder injury. According to scouts during the pre-draft process, Miller had two shoulder injuries during his days at Memphis – one to his right shoulder and one to his right shoulder. He reportedly had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which forced him to miss the entire 2014 season. In addition, he had a “small labral tear” in his left shoulder that he played through during his final season in 2017.
That same shoulder injury is now a bigger concern for Miller, and it will force him to have surgery at some point after the Bears are either eliminated from the playoffs or hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February. The impressive rookie first dislocated his left shoulder on September 23 in a game against the Arizona Cardinals. This shoulder injury cost Miller just one game, and after a week of rest and the bye week the following week, Miller returned in Week 6.
As was the case with Miller, it’s not uncommon for players to be able to play shortly after a dislocated shoulder, but there is a bigger risk of re-dislocating the shoulder during the athlete’s first few games back on the field. This is because it’s common for the labrum to get torn and have the joint get stretched out and loose. Because of this, athlete’s will typically wear a brace in order to help provide more support and create more stability in the shoulder joint. The issue with this, however, is that it restricts shoulder range of motion, limiting the receiver’s catch radius.
The labrum is a tiny piece of fibrocartilaginous tissue that helps to create more stability in the shoulder joint, which is a ball and socket. Basically, this rim of cartilage helps to provide a vacuum suction-like effect on the humerus or the upper arm bone. Without a healthy and structurally sound labrum, the risk of dislocating the shoulder increases, as we saw with Miller.
Fast forward to Week 17. The Bears played the Vikings in their regular-season finale, and for Miller, a familiar sensation and injury occurred. Miller once again dislocated his left shoulder in non-contact fashion as he went to the ground while carrying the ball near the sideline. His left arm moved away from his body and rotated backward, which is a vulnerable position for a “loose” shoulder. Following the play, cameras followed Miller into the tunnel as he held his arm dangling by his side, a position that is common for an athlete after a dislocated shoulder. The medical staff almost actually put the shoulder back in place while in the tunnel but decided against it after they realized cameras were on their 2nd round pick.
Miller is expected to once again play through the injury as the Bears begin their playoff push, but he will most definitely be out there at less than 100%. He will wear a brace to help to improve the stability of the shoulder, but this is more of a band-aid than a true fix. The only way to truly address Miller’s troublesome left shoulder is via a labral repair surgery.
This surgery is done arthroscopically, and when the surgeon goes into the shoulder, they reattach the labrum to the bone and clean up any tears on the tissue. The surgery itself is relatively quick, but the recovery is not. In the majority of cases, this is about a 6-month recovery. Therefore, if the Bears make a run late into the postseason, Miller may not have surgery until February, and if that’s the case, there’s no guarantee he’s ready for the start of training camp. Regardless, however, I do anticipate him being ready to go for the start of the 2019 season.