Doctor: Bo’s Playing Days Over : Prognosis: Orthopedist who examined him says Jackson’s NFL career has ended and that his baseball career is almost certainly finished too.


Bo Jackson, who built a marketing empire while gaining international acclaim as a two-sport athlete, will never play football again and almost definitely will be forced to retire from baseball, according to an orthopedic specialist who examined Jackson recently.

The doctor, who asked that his named not be used, said Jackson’s career with the Raiders is over and that his condition has worsened since the tailback sustained the injury to his left hip Jan. 13 after a 34-yard run in a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Asked if Jackson could return to the Raiders, the doctor said: “No. I don’t think he’ll play for anybody. I don’t see how he can. It will be too painful.”

The doctor also confirmed that Jackson, 28, is suffering from avascular necrosis of the hip, a condition in which the blood supply is cut off from the damaged bone, which could cause a serious deformity.

“What they’re saying about avascular necrosis is true,” he said. One leading orthopedist compared the action of a bone chip in Jackson’s hip to “putting sand in a motor.”


Raider team physician Robert Rosenfeld would not confirm the extent of the diagnosis and would say only: “We did every test they did back there (in Kansas City), but they were all normal. It was a complication that was developed later.”

Because of the injury, Jackson will almost certainly have to retire from baseball, the orthopedist said.

The Kansas City Royals released Jackson on Monday after their team doctor, Steven Joyce, concluded Jackson would miss the 1991 season because of the injury. Jackson held out hope he might return this season. “Don’t count me out,” he said.

Birmingham-based orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who examined Jackson on Monday, said there was “no collapse of his hip joint” and added Jackson probably would “be able to return to professional sports in the future.”

However, the surgeon who spoke with The Times labeled Andrews’ diagnosis as incorrect.

“Bo obviously isn’t going to play baseball this year, no matter how great of an athlete he is,” the doctor said.

Can Jackson ever return?

“Not unless they make him a home run hitter who doesn’t have to run or slide into second,” he said.

The doctor said Jackson should be able to resume normal physical activities once his injury has healed, but stressed that is a far cry from resuming a career as one of the world’s greatest athletes.

“Worst comes to worst, he’ll have a hip replacement, just like with arthritis,” he said. “But I’ve never heard of anyone playing football with it.”

It was also learned Wednesday that Raider owner Al Davis has placed a gag order on Rosenfeld, the team doctor, since the injury, demanding he not comment about the severity of Jackson’s condition.

The team, in fact, revealed little about Jackson’s injury the week after the injury, when it seemed there was hope the tailback might be able to play in the AFC championship game against the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders referred to the injury as a strain and listed him as doubtful throughout the week. Players who definitely can’t play are supposed to be listed as “out” in mandatory weekly injury reports required by the NFL.

Reached Monday in Hawaii, where he is attending NFL owners meetings, Davis said he expects Jackson to recover from his hip injury and return next season to complete the final season of his five-year contract. Jackson is due to receive $1.6 million in 1991.

Davis said that several NFL players have returned from injuries similar to Jackson’s, a contention another doctor said is unfounded.

“I don’t know what his motivation is to say he’ll be back and well,” the doctor said. “He (Davis) is no dummy, but I don’t know what his reasoning is.”

So thus may be ended the career of Jackson, one of the most compelling athletes of our time. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn surprised many when he announced his intentions to play professional baseball, not football, despite his being made the first pick in the NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Raiders, playing a hunch Jackson would someday return to football, drafted Jackson in the seventh round in 1987, after Tampa Bay’s rights to him expired.

Jackson signed a five-year, $7.4-million contract with the Raiders in 1987 and pursued a two-sport career that has made him an international superstar and a walking corporate empire.

One published report estimates Jackson may stand to lose as much as $100 million in endorsements should his athletic career by cut short by injury. His commercial slogan “Bo Knows” has become part of the American lexicon. Last year, Jackson reportedly earned $4 million in endorsements alone.

Most assumed Jackson would become a star in football, but success in a baseball career seemed more a longshot. Jackson struck out in his first 21 at-bats at Auburn yet possessed enormous potential in the eyes of scouts. And while he has been plagued with nagging injuries throughout his career, Jackson excelled at times in both sports. In 1990, he batted a career-high .272, with 28 home runs and 78 runs batted in. Jackson led the Raiders in rushing with 698 yards in 1990 and, last December, became the first athlete ever to make a major league All-Star team and be named to the NFL’s Pro Bowl.

Jackson had a flair for the dramatic, no doubt, capturing headlines with prodigious home runs in baseball and breakaway runs in football. In 1989, Jackson hit a mammoth home run in his first at-bat at the All-Star game in Anaheim. In four football seasons, Jackson established the longest run in Raider history--92 yards against Cincinnati in 1989--and three of the four longest ever with runs of 91 yards in 1987 and 88 yards last season.

Jackson’s legend grew with each feat. His commercials for Nike made him one of the most recognizable faces in the world, not to mention one of the richest.