With their second pick in the 2017 draft the Eagles chose cornerback Sidney Jones. Jones was originally projected as a high first round pick with a lot of potential but then he ruptured his left Achilles tendon during his pro day workout in early March. Howie Roseman has stated that the Eagles medical staff are confident that Jones will make a full recovery from his surgery. But what does the research say on returning to the NFL following an Achilles tendon rupture? Will the Eagles' 43rd pick be a steal or a bust?
The risk of Achilles tendon rupture is low — around 18 per 100,000 people. Ruptures typically occur in males between 30 and 50 years old and account for around 40 percent of all operative tendon repairs. Approximately 75-80 percent of cases can be attributed to participation in athletic activities, including ball and racquet sports. Re-rupture rates for surgical repair is low at 3-4 percent.
However, returning to sports following Achilles tendon rupture can be difficult. A 2009 study by Parekh et al showed that 30 percent of NFL players did not return to play following this injury.
A more recent article from 2016 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine reported on 80 Achilles tendon ruptures from March 2003 to 2013. They found a return to play rate of 72.5 percent with a return to play time frame of one year +/- four months. The study showed a significantly higher proportion of defensive lineman who sustained the injury. Their results showed a 9.3 percent decrease in return to play with each increasing year of age and 6.3 percent decrease with each increasing year of experience.
Achilles tendon repairs led to significantly fewer games played following return (27 games) compared to many other procedures. These players showed a reduction in performance during their first season following surgery but returned to pre-injury levels between their second and third years. Findings showed that Achilles tendon repair — as well as ACL reconstruction and patellar tendon repair — have the greatest effect on the careers of NFL players.
What does this all mean for Sidney Jones? Although Achilles tendon ruptures are a difficult injury to recover from, Jones has some advantages. His young age, 20, and limited NFL seasons are a positive predictor for return to play. Although research hasn’t looked at draft position and return to play from Achilles tendon injury, this has been studied for injuries to the ACL. A 2010 paper in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that being selected in the first 4 rounds of the NFL draft was highly predictive of return to play.
With this information, the odds are with Jones to have a successful recovery from Achilles tendon surgery. Jones may not be ready for the 2017-18 season but we can hope to see him in an Eagles jersey for years to come.
Justin Shaginaw is the lead physical therapist and coordinator of the sports medicine program at Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute. He is also an athletic trainer for US Soccer Federation.