Dr. Andrew J. Elliott of the Hospital for Special Surgery watched the slowed-down footage of Aaron Rodgers’ injury in his first start for the New York Jets Monday night and knew an Achilles tendon injury would be the diagnosis.
“When I saw the reverb clip, yes,” Elliott told Fox News Digital when asked if he saw the clip where a a clear pulse passed through Rodgers’ calf.
The diagnosis was clear after Rodgers underwent an MRI on Tuesday, and he revealed Thursday night that he wasted no time in having surgery to repair the tendon. Rodgers shared a photo on his Instagram Stories, thanking Dr. Neal ElAttrache and his team for a “great” surgery.
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Now the road to recovery begins for Rodgers, and it’s a long road to go with an Achilles injury. However, despite not yet making his intentions known for the 2024 season, Rodgers vowed to “get back up” in an Instagram post. Rodgers having surgery immediately after learning his diagnosis, shows he wants to at least begin his recovery schedule as quickly as possible.
Does this mean Rodgers can return next season by week one?
“I think it’s a very achievable date,” said Elliott, who has performed more than 250 minimally invasive Achilles tendon repairs, decisively.
Jets fans may think there’s no way a 40-year-old quarterback will be ready for next season after suffering this kind of injury, but Elliott explained it all to give everyone a better understanding of the process Rodgers will enter into and why. he will still be able to play at his elite level when he returns.
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First, the Achilles tendon is the largest of its kind in the body. Everything you do – walking, running, climbing – requires the Achilles tendon to function properly. So you can understand what makes it so important for an athlete.
There is also no way to speed up recovery. The tendon will heal over time, provided diligent rehabilitation is carried out and, more importantly, not rushed.
Every patient is different, Elliott also emphasized. An example of this is NBA superstar Kevin Durant, who needs 16 months to get back into shape, compared to the usual one-year timeline.
Before a timetable for Rodgers even enters the conversation, Elliott says Rodgers not walking on his left leg at all begins the recovery process.
“You have to have a period of downtime to allow injuries and things to heal,” he explained. “But we try to get things moving early in a short range of motion, just so the tendon can start to slide and move. We don’t want to put too much pressure on it to stretch it, because once you “Stretch, that means you’re going to be permanently weak. We try not to get to that stage too soon.
For Elliott, that’s key. Do not stretch the tendon. This usually happens when rehabilitation is rushed or too aggressive for its patients.
Next up for Rodgers would be an “isometric exercise,” or an exercise that doesn’t require movement. Consider a leg lift or plank.
“We also run them with something we call BFR, or blood flow restriction, which keeps the muscle healthy, allows it to think it’s training even if it’s not really training that much. I’m sure they’re going to ask Aaron to do that,” Elliott said.
The period of immobilization required for Achilles to heal is not as long as some might believe. Elliott said after three weeks, Rodgers will likely put weight on his left foot again. Three weeks later, Rodgers could be “fully weight-bearing in a special boot,” allowing the tendon to start feeling that load again.
“At six weeks, I think it’s healed enough that you start lowering the height of the boot to get it to a more normal position without it stretching things out,” Elliott said. “Then physical therapy begins, continuing with more isometrics. They get on a bike and do early isokinetic strengthening on the bike. They walk – I encourage them to go up and down stairs to get the strength back.”
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Getting out of the trunk, if all goes well, can take between nine and ten weeks.
As the rehabilitation process continues, Elliott stressed the importance of physical therapists being attentive to how Rodgers is feeling. This all comes from not wanting to stretch the tendon.
The next step for Rodgers will be to attempt jogging and running, which should take about four and a half to five months.
“Then they start working with more agility drills,” Elliott continued. “Then they start maybe doing jumping-type activities in a very controlled environment in the gym. Back to more sport-specific activities and finally more explosive activities at 10 months.”
To be more specific, explosive activities refer to anything Rodgers can do on the football field, planting in the ground and throwing, among other exercises. Next season’s training camp begins in July 2024.
That’s why Elliott is confident Rodgers can be back in time for the start of the regular season — again, if that’s what he plans to do. Two additional months of rehabilitation would equate to a full year, which is normally recovery time.
Additionally, Elliott isn’t worried about Rodgers’ age during this rehab process.
“Once you start getting into your 50s and 60s, yeah, I think the rehab process is probably a little slower,” he said. “These patients, as they get older, probably have a little more degeneration in their tendon, which has weakened it.
“If you look at Aaron, there was a huge force going through him. He broke like a 20 or 30 year old.”
Elliott admitted it would be a “long journey” for Rodgers. However, he mentioned that Dan Marino suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his 1993 season and would return for six more seasons (given that he was 32 years old at the time of the injury).
Playing as a quarterback is also favorable for Rodgers because he doesn’t need to cut like a wide receiver or drive into the ground like a lineman.
“Aaron is a right-handed thrower and it’s his left foot. So his left foot is more of a plant foot. For throwing, I don’t see that affecting his throwing at all. Scrambling in the pocket is going to be a C’ is a little different. Trying to move and have that explosive power, he can feel it a little bit.
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“You may have a little weakness, but you can probably compensate for that in most cases.”
A lot can happen during a six-week rehab process, let alone a full year, but if all goes well, Rodgers could be gearing up for year 20, giving Jets fans hope for a once again that he can lead them to Super Bowl glory.