Bottom line: Expect him to be at full strength at the start of the season. He had a sports hernia repaired, and is expected to return to pre-injury form, but data suggests decreased career length and number of games played per year after this injury. He will always have additional durability concerns related to prior knee cartilage damage, but this hasn’t caused him to miss time recently.
Injury: Sports hernia
Date of Injury: ~11/24/19
Date of Surgery: ~1/13/20
Analysis in Detail:
Return to Play
Return rates in NFL players undergoing sports hernia repair are over 90%, with time to return averaging 2-4 months. Clowney should be cleared well before the start of camp.
Expect return to pre-injury level of performance based on outcomes from two studies on sports hernia surgery in NFL players. Clowney’s 2019 performance was impacted by playing through pain from the injury, which should be healed by the start of the 2020 season.
Career length tends to be shorter in NFL players who undergo sports hernia repair and there may be a negative association with number of games played each year, but this is Clowney’s second sports hernia so his risk profile isn’t drastically impacted by the injury. His main long-term concern comes from his knee, which has previously had damage to the cartilage and meniscus (shock absorbing tissue). We have no reason to think that his knee will be an issue in the short-term, but it’s at a moderately increased risk long-term.
Image Source: Keith Allison, CC-BY-SA-2.0