Troy Aikman has been injured often enough during his 10-year
career that the Cowboys' training staff needs a pair of
two-by-two-foot manila envelopes to hold his file. The first,
labeled AIKMAN, TROY--NUMBER 1, is bulging with X-rays taken of
the Dallas quarterback from 1989, his rookie year, through '95.
The second includes a handful of X-rays dating to the start of
the '96 season.
On this day, head trainer Jim Maurer is interested in the two
most recent negatives. The X-ray taken on Sept. 14, the day
after Aikman was injured against the Broncos, showed a clean
break of his left clavicle. The second X-ray, made on Sept. 20,
showed a slight improvement. It should take about 60 days for
the bone to heal, but Aikman, who on Sunday missed his third
game because of the injury, doesn't have that long to
recuperate. He had targeted his return for the 28th day after
the break, on Oct. 11, but on Monday he conceded that the bone
hadn't healed sufficiently. Aikman will probably miss two more
games, returning on Nov. 2 against the Eagles, still 11 days
ahead of schedule.
"His shoulder pads will have extra padding that will cover his
left side, but what we can't prevent is him landing on his left
arm and rebreaking a bone that is not fully fused," Maurer said
last week. "You can't rush nature."
You can, however, nudge it. Each day Aikman takes a calcium
supplement. Also, for 20 minutes he holds a stapler-sized
ultrasound bone stimulator on his shoulder; the device is
designed to increase blood flow to the injured area and, in
turn, accelerate the healing process.
Aikman's progress has been predictably unpredictable, because,
as Maurer says, "Every body is different." Nine days after
getting hurt, Aikman jogged and, for the first time since the
Denver game, threw a football. He reported little pain. Three
days later he took a snap from center. "About sent me through
the roof," he says of the excruciating pain.
It is, of course, a bit of lunacy to play with a bone that isn't
fully healed. "I do worry about my health long-term," Aikman
says, "but I also know my obligation to the team. I chose to
play this sport, and when I did, I knew a lot of pain and injury
would come with it. And everyone looks down on the player who
won't sacrifice his body. Every team has a few of those guys."
The bottom line, Aikman says, is that none of his teammates wants
to hear how much his shoulder hurts. "Shut up and play," Aikman
says dismissively, "that's how I've always felt about injuries.
That's life in the NFL."