Steve Smith will undergo a complex surgery Tuesday and face a lengthy rehabilitation, according to a person familiar with his knee injury.
Smith, who officially went on injured reserve Thursday, will undergo a procedure to repair the articular cartilage injury that he suffered to his left knee Monday night. Team physician Russell Warren will perform the surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
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Repairing the injury will require mosaicplasty as well as some microfracture, according to the source. The injured area is the posterior lateral femoral condyle, which is a non-weight-bearing area of the knee. Smith is expected to be on crutches for six weeks before beginning rehab.
"The doctor said that he expects him to make a full recovery," Tom Coughlin said Thursday, adding that he has been told Smith should be able to play next season.
Mosaicplasty involves harvesting plugs of cartilage from a healthy area of the knee where it isn't needed or doesn't bear weight, and transplanting those plugs to the area of injury, according to Craig Levitz, Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at South Nassau Community Hospital as well as the director of the South Nassau Center for Cartilage Repair.
"The recovery is lengthy," Levitz said. "A minimum six months for a return to sports, but it can easily take up to 12 months."
Levitz, who has not examined Smith, said the success rate for such a procedure - defined by lack of pain and a return to normal activities for an average person - is about 80 percent.
"The good news is that if it works and he gets back to playing, he should have a long career because it heals with normal cartilage, so therefore his knee is back to normal," Levitz said.
This is the second year in a row that a Giants player has faced a complex knee injury. Last year Kenny Phillips had microfracture surgery to repair patelofemoral arthritis in his knee. He had the procedure in late September 2009 and was cleared to play fully only at the start of this season, nearly a year later.
"I haven't spoken to him yet. I'm not sure what his issue is," Phillips said of Smith. "If it's anything similar to mine, I'll definitely have some advice for him, especially with trying to get back healthy . . . I've been through it. I know what it's going to take to get through it, so I'll definitely help him out along the way."
Unlike Phillips, Smith's future with the team is clouded by his injury. Smith will be a free agent at the end of this season.