There are few major injuries that seem to be as common as torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, an injury that requires surgery and will sideline Eagles center Jason Kelce for the season.
But like Tommy John surgery in baseball, it seems there is a greater success rate with players recovering from this surgery than in previous years. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered a torn ACL and MCL last Christmas, and was playing on opening day. Eagles safety Colt Anderson tore his ACL in early December and has also returned. Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said the injury takes 6-12 months to recover from, with nine months as the target. He said the injury is not easier to recover from now than it's been in the past, but improvements in areas such as a rehabilitation have helped.
This is what Burkholder said about the recovery time with the injury, and how it's changed over the years:
"Nothing’s changed in terms of time frame because that tendon that they put in as ligament needs to go through a whole process where it goes from tendon, actually dies off and regenerates at ligament. We’ve known these studies since the 80s that it takes somewhere between six and twelve months for it to fully mature. I think what’s happened is the surgeries have gotten better, there’s been a few techniques that have changed that maybe could expedite it. But in our case, we’re kind of sticking to that time frame.
"I think the rehabilitation has gotten better just because my field, with athletic training and rehabilitation, we’ve gotten more advanced. But the bottom line is, that tendon that they put in place of the ligament still needs to come back as ligament. We still look at those same numbers. At six months, you’re safer than you were at three months, but at nine months, you’re safer than six months. There’s not a big, big increase between nine months and twelve months but there is some increase. I think the rehabilitation has gotten really good where a lot of players feel pretty good at six months and feel great at nine months and then you just have to go from there depending on where their season falls.
"We had to deal with that with Colt. We were right at the eight-month mark when camp started and then the nine-month mark when camp ended. I think those things go into it. But the bottom line is, that tendon that they put in there has to come back as ligament and that hasn’t changed since the beginning of the surgery back when they first started doing these.”
I was also curious about whether Kelce would be more likely to tear his ACL again because there are cases in which a player twice tears the same knee ligaments. Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas has suffered a similar knee injury on three different occasions.
Here's what Burkholder said:
"I think anytime you’re injured, you have a chance of redoing it. We try to take every precaution, whether it’s Dr. DeLuca doing the surgery or whether it’s us at rehabilitation that we stick to our guidelines and our process so that they have the best chance not to re-tear. But certainly in this game, you saw how Kelce got hurt. This wasn’t a non-contact injury. This was a definite contact injury and you put a tendon in there and it becomes ligament and he gets hit like that again, there’s a chance that he’ll tear it.
"But it doesn’t really have too much to do with age or anything like that in his case. The reason I stated about his age is because his joint services are so good and he’s so young that he won’t have all the arthritic changes that some older players have or older weekend warrior athletes that we worry about when they have their ACL done or not done.”