Should Jason Witten play in the Cowboys' season opener?
DALLAS — Dallas Cowboys veteran tight end Jason Witten lacerated his spleen during the August 13 pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders.
The injury has many fans wondering if Witten can — or should — continue to play professional football.
The spleen is a fist-sized organ located under the left rib cage near the stomach. It helps fight infection in youth, but is not considered a critical organ as people age.
"The spleen is like a big bowl of Jell-o wrapped in Saran Wrap," explained Texas Health Dallas chief of surgery Dr. Tom Shires. He is not Witten's treating physician, but he is an expert in spleen injuries.
Dr. Shires said that when the capsule full of Jell-o cracks, the spleen can heal itself. Witten's injury did not require surgery or removal.
Six weeks is considered the gold standard of normal healing time for a spleen laceration with a lower grade of 1, 2, or 3. Unconfirmed reports are that Witten's injury is a grade 2-3.
Witten's injury was just three weeks ago.
"So historically, we've restricted activity — particularly contact activity — somewhere between that three and six week period before you get back at least half of the bursting strength of the wound," Dr. Shires said.
If Witten takes to the field on Wednesday night, Dr. Shires said he risks a serious repeat injury — possibly a burst spleen, which could bench him for many more weeks, the rest of the season, or worse.
"Catastrophic rupture of the spleen is a fatal event," Dr. Shires warned. "It's a not uncommon cause of death after deceleration injuries, falls from height, car wrecks."
Witten was listed as "doubtful" for Wednesday night's game. There are reports are that Witten has offered to sign a medical waiver to play.