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Chuck Landon: Surgeries sideline MU's Van for spring

Apr. 07, 2012 @ 12:20 AM

Everyone knew Travon Van was playing hurt last season.

No, change that.

There's a distinct difference between playing "hurt" and playing "injured."

Marshall's talented sophomore running back definitely was playing injured.

We just never realized how injured.

As it turns out, Van played in all 13 games despite having injuries that required not one, but two off-season surgeries.

Alarmed? Do be.

Particularly since the second surgery was a hip arthroscopy to repair a traumatic hip labral tear. Anytime a running back suffers a serious hip injury, one name limps to mind.

Bo Jackson.

A hip injury ended both his NFL and Major League Baseball careers.

The good news, however, is Van's injury and subsequent surgery appears to be more similar to what New York Yankees' star Alex Rodriguez endured. In other words, it isn't career-ending.

But it's still serious.

That's because the labrum is like a cuff on a shirt sleeve. It extends the socket of the ball-and-socket joint to make it more stable. The labrum provides support to hold the bones in their proper alignment. The ligaments that help hold the entire joint together are attached to the labrum.

Van injured the labrum and one of the ligaments, creating a hip impingement.

That's why he's a mere spectator during Marshall's spring practice, watching on crutches and wearing a brace attached to his right thigh to help support his injured right hip.

Seem like Van has done more sitting and watching than playing since he arrived nearly two years ago? Only because he has. After sitting out one entire year as an academic non-qualifier, now Van is on the shelf again.

He has to be tired of all this.

"Uh, yeah, definitely," said Van, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound redshirt sophomore. "I was really looking forward to participating in spring practice this year.

"It was a real downer, me having to get two surgeries. I thought the first one was going to be enough, but they found some more stuff and had to do the second one."

The first procedure was to repair a sports hernia. The second was the hip arthroscopy.

"I had to get it fixed," said Van. "I had to get it scoped and clean out the tissue in there."

Surgeons had to repair the damaged labrum by shaving out the torn portion and making it smooth.

"That was my main problem during the whole season," explained Van, who still managed to rush for 551 yards on 143 carries and score three touchdowns. "But we didn't think it was that bad. We just thought it was a sports hernia. But we came to find out it was a whole different thing. I had a hip impingement, so they fixed that as well."

It might not be career-threatening, but hip injuries of this extent are still very serious. Particularly for a running back -- of all positions. The seriousness is reflected in the diagnosis of Van's recovery time.

"Right now, they're saying it's a six-month process," he said. "But the way I'm feeling, I might be ready before then."

Uh, oh. Six months? That means Van could miss as many as four games next season.

"Yeah," replied Van soberly. "My goal is to come back as healthy as I can. Just make sure I build up this muscle and everything. I'll be doing a bunch of rehab every day. ... every day. Rehab and stretching."

We all knew Van was a tough kid.

Now, we know how tough.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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