Undrafted rookie cornerback Randall Goforth tore his ACL in practice on July 28 during what appeared to be a contact injury. This is a season-ending injury and he will likely undergo ACL reconstruction surgery within the next few weeks.
The timeline to return to play following ACL reconstruction varies, especially if additional injuries occurred such as a meniscal tear or articular cartilage damage. Most professional athletes return to pre-injury levels between 9-12 months. Recovery is based on the athlete passing a battery of tests, which include evaluations of balance, strength, and hopping distance, as well as, performance on the field and position-specific testing.
I wrote previously on the research surrounding return to play following ACL injuries in the NFL. The finding showed that 63 percent of NFL players returned to play with an average time frame of approximately 11 months. Veteran players were more likely to return to competition at the same level than those with less professional experience. Being selected in the first four rounds of the NFL draft was highly predictive of return to play.
A 2016 study in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine reported a 55.5 percent return to play for NFL cornerbacks. In that study, higher draft status was again significantly associated with a greater likelihood of return to play.
Lastly, a 2017 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that 61 percent of NFL defensive players returned to play with only 26 percent remaining active in the NFL three seasons after surgery. Those who did return were above-average NFL players before their injury but relatively average players after their return.
With ACL rehabilitation, there are multiple variables that influence a player’s ability to return to sports: surgical technique, quality of rehabilitation, athlete’s drive to recover, and skill level pre-injury. The Eagles will provide Goforth with the best opportunity for a successful recovery; let’s hope he can beat the odds and get back on the roster next season.
Justin Shaginaw, PT, DPT, LAT, ATC, is an athletic trainer at Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute and for the US Soccer Federation.