A Study on NFL Players and Achilles Injuries

As we all know, Andre Brown suffered from an Achilles injury in training camp last year.  He was doing very well prior to the injury and was giving the coaches confidence in his ability to replace Derrick Ward.  After the poor, injury-plagued  seasons by Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the uncertainty of Brown's recovery is especially troublesome. It's been hard to find any definitive information on past NFL players' return to action - until now.

I did some research and I found the Lower Extremity Review (LER ) .  It's a newly created monthly magazine that deals with "accurate, practical, and relevant information for the various specialists involved in treating the lower extremity."  Conveniently, the feature article for March 2010 deals with NFL players who suffered from Achilles injuries.  Entitled Return to football after Achilles tendon rupture, it's an extensive report authored by four doctors, in which they cite the works of a variety of other sources.

According to the story, NFL players have a high risk of suffering from an Achilles injury "because the game involves explosive acceleration and sudden changes in direction."  If I remember correctly, Brown suffered his injury when he cut to run up field.

Parekh et al did a study that dealt with 31 players who suffered from Achilles injuries between 1997 and 2002. These players "included defensive tackles, cornerbacks, linebackers, wide receivers, and running backs." On average, each player was 29-years-old at the time of the injury and had six years in the NFL prior to the injury.

Only "21 (64%) returned to play in the NFL at an average of 11 months after injury" and each player had significantly shorter seasons after the injury compared to the seasons before the injury.  It should be noted that most people need four to six months to return to their daily lives.  The football players studied needed approximately 11 months and even then, they weren't necessarily at optimal game shape.  Brown will be entering the season 12 months after his suffering his injury.

Parekh et al formulated their own power ratings for gauging a player's efficacy on the football field.  On average the power rating of each player post-injury was nearly 50% less than the average power rating of the three season prior to the injury. In other words, there were lingering effects of the injury and sometimes, they were permanent

To be fair, the study admits that lower ratings "could suggest that they are returning too soon, before rehabilitation is fully complete."  Also, the power ratings did not factor in variables such as different schemes, different game plans, injuries to teammates, and tougher opponents. 

The article acknowledges that "intense strength training" may be necessary even after the player returns.  Brown is a young player and young players often don't recognize the commitment and discipline required to getting their bodies in shape to play.   I hope he has taken his rehab seriously because tending to the tendon could be something he has to do for the rest of his career.

While things look dire, remember that these statistics are averages.  Some players did better than these numbers and some did worse.  Hopefully, Brown is part of the former but we won't know until he gets into a game. When you add to the uncertainty of Brown's recovery, the yearly injury concerns of Jacobs and Bradshaw, and Danny "DJ" Ware's persona non grata relationship with Coughlin, I expect the Giants to draft a RB this year.  Whether that RB should be C.J. Spiller at #15, I can't say.  I was previously a staunch opponent of the idea but now I'm not so sure.  Regardless, In Reese I Trust.

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