Shonn Greene's 2014 Outlook Following Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Dave Siebert, M.D.@DaveMSiebertFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

Tennessee Titans running back Shonn Greene runs a play during an NFL football minicamp workout on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

On Monday, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported that Tennessee Titans running back Shonn Greene underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after he "complained of soreness and suffered some knee swelling" following a three-day minicamp.

Wyatt notes the operation is the second such procedure on Greene's knee in less than a year.

More than likely, Greene's surgery involved the removal of loose or damaged cartilage or bone fragments from the joint. That said, precise details are not available, and his recovery time will depend on the extent of damage within the knee—something doctors possibly did not even know until during the procedure itself.

During arthroscopic knee surgery, a surgeon can visualize and treat many different problems—such as meniscal tears.
During arthroscopic knee surgery, a surgeon can visualize and treat many different problems—such as meniscal tears.Wikimedia Commons.

Why go immediately to surgery?

Knee scopes allow a surgeon to directly visualize the structures inside the knee joint, often improving the ability to diagnose a problem beyond the capabilities of MRI. He or she can then, for instance, trim away frayed pieces of the meniscus—the knee's shock absorber—that may be leading to pain, inflammation and swelling.

Loose bone or tissue fragments floating within the joint can also cause the above symptoms, and surgeons can remove them during the operation.

Ideally, a knee scope both diagnoses and treats the underlying issue, allowing an athlete to gradually regain his or her range of motion and strength once the inflammation dies down. Then, without the source of that inflammation—such as the aforementioned frayed meniscus—it does not return.


Recoveries for knee scope "clean outs" range from a few weeks to a few months—as long as surgeons do not discover an unanticipated finding that necessitates a longer and more cautious period of healing.

In this case, Wyatt writes the Titans expect their running back to return in time for training camp in July.

To reach that point, Greene needs to return to full activity without the return of significant pain or swelling, thus implying the procedure successfully identified and addressed the underlying problem. Whether or not the procedure represents a consequence of his previous injury—or a new issue altogether—is not clear.

Until Greene returns, Titans fans should keep an eye out for reports of recurring symptoms, which could signify a more serious, long-term issue.

In the meantime, the Titans cannot yet work on developing running back Bishop Sankey, Tennessee's second-round pick out of Washington. According to's Paul Kuharsky, NFL rules prohibit Sankey from joining the Titans in organized team activities while the University of Washington is still in session.

Kuharsky adds that, as a result, Jackie Battle and Leon Washington will receive plenty of work in the interim.


Dr. Dave Siebert is a resident physician at the University of Washington who plans to pursue fellowship training in Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine.