Will Carroll is taking a look at the top draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft with any medical questions. Carroll takes a look at the full spectrum of info, including injury history and exclusive medical insight from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, a medical consultant to many pro teams and the current L.A. Dodgers team physician.
D. J. Hayden, 5'11", 191-pound cornerback from Houston
Hayden only has one injury on his chart, but it's a duesie. Hayden had a freak injury, where a major blood vessel in his chest was torn, almost costing him much more than a chance at the NFL. It is normally an injury only seen in auto accidents. "It's the most unique injury in the history of the draft," Packers senior executive Alonzo Highsmith said. "The only people that ever had it aren't alive and doctors have never seen it."
The injury is very difficult to get any read on due to the unique nature. So far, no doctors are willing to say that there is a major risk of recurrence on record, though the fact that Hayden is still healing from November surgery is definitely notable. Hayden is still not participating in drills and could not perform the bench press at his pro day.
Combining a blank slate of an injury history with one traumatic incident is often difficult, but the upside is that a team which feels the trauma is healed and non-recurrent should feel confident in his physicality.
Hayden was not ready to perform at the NFL Scouting Combine, but did participate in the medical portions. He was able to put up a solid performance at his pro day, putting up good physical numbers, including a 4.4 40-yard dash. While the time was solid, Hayden only ran once due to a mild hamstring strain. His time off from the game makes that one a bit less concerning than most, especially considering his lack of previous issues with his legs.
Hayden is still healing from the November surgery that saved his life. In that surgery, his chest was cracked open, necessitating extra healing time not only for the repaired blood vessel, but time for his ribs and sternum to fully solidify. Hayden's medical care was overseen by Dr. Walt Lowe, the team physician for both the University of Houston and the Houston Rockets. Lowe is very well thought of and his involvement may help some teams increase their comfort level.
"That's an unusual injury. First, we'd of course look at the medical records, talk to the doctors involved and get a good look at the athlete. This would be treated somewhat like how we would deal with an injured spleen. With time off and the proper care, there's no reason to think this would be a long-term problem. Teams will just have to do their due diligence." - Dr. Neal ElAttrache
Mike Mayock of NFL.com made a late move, pushing Hayden above Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes at CB to his best-rated slot. That comes in contrast to Matt Miller's rating of a sixth-round pick status in his last mock draft, though Miller also agrees with the late shift, telling me that Hayden is now in his top 50. The injury is the major concern costing him from being considered with players like Milliner and Rhodes in the first round and well above someone like Tyrann Matthieu, who comes with a different set of risks.
There is mixed thought on Hayden throughout the NFL. A one-off injury that is not likely to recur has to be considered, but his recovery is on track and there seems to be a shift to his prior results. A good pro day helped assuage some of the physical concerns and the medical side could get a look at the pace of his healing. While Hayden is not yet cleared for contact, he is expected to be ready for training camp. Once past this trauma, it is reasonable to expect that Hayden should continue his prior healthy ways in the pros.
These reports were compiled from various cited sources. All draft data courtesy NFL.com. Inside Look is exclusive to B/R from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic and former team physician for the Los Angeles Rams. Dr. ElAttrache helps give insight into what the team doctors for NFL teams will be looking for in this type of player with injury concerns.
Will Carroll is the lead writer for sports medicine at Bleacher Report.