Doctors' treatment of Chipper Jones' left knee with topically applied cortisone -- a legal steroid sometimes referred to as a "miracle drug" for its ability to reduce inflammation -- is having a predictable, immediate beneficial effect on the Atlanta Braves third baseman's lingering injury, but time may be short.
The greater amount of cortisone and the longer Jones uses it exposes him to an inherent risk of cumulative brittleness of fibrous tendons, and may hasten Jones' departure toward a point of no return.
Jones' case is aggravated by the fact that this is his second, catastrophic, left knee ACL tear since he was the Braves No. 1 overall draft pick in 1992, the first tear having come during spring training in 1994 when he was trying to beat out a grounder to first base. As a result he missed the entire season.
To accelerate his rehabilitation, the 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer plans to present himself to trainers in spring camp in just two weeks. He has been swinging the bat in the cage for more than six weeks in Atlanta, but is taking it easy before returning to work around the bag, an activity which caused this most recent ACL injury six months ago.
Jones' recovery will be eight months along by the time the season starts, making it possible but questionable whether Jones will be ready to take the field by opening day. He will be required to undergo extensive strengthening and limbering exercises, including bench work, stationary bike and pool activity.
Even if Jones is able to return to play without a setback due to the cortisone, it's only a matter of time before multiple trauma leads to the onset of arthritic discomfort, if it hasn't started already.