An open letter to armchair orthopedists

I saw your Facebook posts, your tweets and your message board comments late Sunday night and all of Monday.

As far as I know, working at Jiffy Lube doesn't require a medical degree. And last I heard, you don't need to pass the state medical boards to be a barista. So what, exactly, are you jokers doing trying to diagnose Jay Cutler's thumb injury? Here are a few comments representative of what I've read over the past couple of days:

• "So, people like to say that Cutler is soooo tough, yet I remember [Brett Favre] playing with a broken throwing thumb."

• "I'm no doctor, but if [Jay Cutler's thumb] is fractured why would he need surgery? Ben Roethlisburger [sic] also has a fractured thumb on his throwing hand and him missing any time has never even been mentioned."

• "Cutler is a quitter, that's what he does because he CANT take the pressure. He's just a sissy emo kid."

Look, we're all upset about Cutler's bum thumb. Things were finally clicking for the Bears, and now their playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of a backup QB who has thrown fewer passes this regular season than the team's punter, Adam Podlesh.

Chicago was on a roll, for sure. The Bears won five straight behind Cutler's arm, Matt Forte's legs, Devin Hester's returns and Julius Peppers' sacks, and now the future is all gray and blurry and unknown. So really, I get it. You're upset and you just want to lash out at something or someone.

Jay Cutler and his thumb are not the right targets for your frustration.

I don't care if you took AP biology in high school, you "played doctor" with your college sweetheart in the stacks of the library, or you're wearing one of those "Trust me, I'm a Doctor" T-shirts from Urban Outfitters; you're not qualified to judge the severity of someone's injury from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy.

Yes, the ol' gunslinger, Brett Favre, hurt his throwing thumb back in 1999 and played the whole season with it, but he had just a sprain, with no broken bones, and his offseason treatment required just rest, not surgery. It's clear now that Favre didn't need to go under the knife -- his thumbs have held up just fine despite his rigorous regimen of text-messaging.

And yes, Ben Roethlisberger fractured his thumb two Sundays ago in Cincinnati and is planning to play next week. But he's not skipping surgery because he's "tough"; he's skipping it because the injury doesn't require surgery. Reports say Big Ben fractured the first bone of his finger (the distal phalanx, or the tip), an injury that will require him to wear a splint and a glove when he plays.

Cutler's thumb will reportedly require the surgical insertion of a pin to provide stability, which means the fracture is almost certainly in the second bone (the proximal phalanx), where the thumb meets the hand.

A real doctor, Alan Shahtaji, a primary care sports medicine fellow at Wake Forest University, said the difference in the way Roethlisberger's and Cutler's injuries are being treated says everything about the respective severity of each. "I guarantee 99 percent of the time you'd never just splint something that needed a pin," Shahtaji told me on Monday. (He hasn't treated either player.)

Shahtaji explained that when there is a break near the tip, as in Roethlisberger's case, the injury may hurt a lot, but the only real treatment is to immobilize the hand (put a splint on it) and try to avoid causing a larger fracture. When the break is near the joint, as with Cutler, it can't be left untreated without severe potential consequences such as nerve damage, decreased blood supply to the hand and increasingly limited stability. So unless you can tell me the difference between an intra-articular Rolando fracture and a hairline fracture, I suggest you leave the diagnoses to the real doctors.

The fact that so many of you faux physicians immediately assume the worst from Cutler is even more infuriating considering the lunacy that followed his injury in last year's NFC championship game. Every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally -- from Maurice Jones-Drew to your mechanic Jim McGoo -- wanted to throw Cutler under the bus for leaving that game early, only to tuck their tails between their legs and run when it was revealed he'd torn his MCL.

So put away your jump-to-conclusions mats and rummage through your closets for those rarely used thinking caps. Leave the doctoring to the doctors and the quarterbacking to Jay Cutler. Or, for at least the next month or two, Caleb Hanie.

I'm as fanatical as the next Bears fan, but I know my limitations. My entire college science education consisted of freshman year geology and sophomore year oceanography, so the only thing I'm qualified to diagnose is a hangover. If the Bears say Cutler needs surgery on his thumb and he'll likely miss 6 to 8 weeks, well, I'm jumping on board the Hanie bandwagon and riding it 'til the postseason comes. And you should, too. No one should be starting a sentence with, "I'm no doctor, but ..."

Sincerely, Sarah Spain

PS: Throw out that T-shirt, you look like a jackwagon.

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