Orthopaedic surgeon details when Aaron Rodgers can fully return to football

Originally published on A-Z Sports

New York Jets QB Aaron Rodgers is officially done for the year after tearing his Achilles against the Buffalo Bills. It’s obviously a major blow to a team with Super Bowl aspirations and it begs the question of how things happened the way they did.

We’ve heard numerous hypotheses of how the injury occurred and they’ve ranged from it being a byproduct of Rodgers’ previous calf strain to the artificial turf being the main culprit.

The most likely cause? A simple matter of unfortunate timing and bad luck. According to The Bone and Joint Institute‘s Dr. Ronald Derr, there are multiple factors that can contribute to the type of injury Rodgers suffered.

“I would tell you [in] my experience, those two I haven’t really associated together, routinely,” said Derr, who is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery including Achilles tendon surgery, as well as sports medicine injuries such as lisfranc injuries, ankle and metatarsal fractures and tendon ruptures. 
“When somebody comes in with a calf strain, I’m not worried about them tearing their Achilles, typically,” Derr added. “Typically the strain by itself is addressed with therapy – with stretching and strengthening and those sorts of things.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced the player in my 27-years ever tearing their Achilles after they had a calf strain, but I would never say it had nothing to do with it. It just wouldn’t be my first line of thought… Your Achilles, you know, it’s it’s the strongest tendon in your body. So, you’d think it takes a lot of force to rupture that. A lot of times it’s the minor little things.”

As for the idea of the artificial turf in MetLife Stadium being the catalyst? Well, it’s not so simple there, either.

“I think it’s case-by-case,” said Derr. “I kind of did some looking into the background and the research on the artificial turf. There’s a big dispute between the players union and the owners in the NFL. I know the last 10-years or so they’ve looked at injury data and, in general, playing on artificial services, there’s a higher injury rate -especially [a] lower extremity injury rate- than there is with grass. But a couple of years ago, it was pretty even [between] grass and turf. So depending on whose data you’re looking at, and how you like to spin that, you know, it’s hard to know for sure.
“The thing it kind of goes against that a little bit, you have [Baltimore Ravens running back] JK Dobbins tear his Achilles the same weekend on grass and so, that’s where it gets a little muddy sometimes on whether it’s just the artificial turf or was it a unique level of circumstance… I don’t know if he can just totally blame it on the artificial surface, but in general, most people would probably acknowledge it. Artificial services are a little riskier than the grass.”

How quickly can Rodgers get back to playing? 

Achilles tears are not easy to recover from, by any means. And even though we’ve seen crazy comebacks like that of Cam Akers in 2021, there’s typically a general recovery timeline that is attached to the injury. 

“Typically we would tell a player that it’s six months before they can do any sort of aggressive sport activity,” said Derr. “Obviously the age difference can play into that some, too. It may take a little longer at 39 to recover than a guy who’s 22. It’s pretty impressive to have that injury and be back same season, but he [Akers] had a couple of months head start, obviously, on that timeframe, too. I would tell people generally for Aaron Rodgers’ age range, six to nine months to get back to playing.”

Six months from the date of September 11 would place a potential Rodgers return around mid-March. If it goes the full nine months then Rodgers’ return wouldn’t be until mid-June. 

There’s obviously a big difference, there. A March return means Rodgers would be able to participate in the Jets’ entire offseason program, whereas a June return means he would miss OTAs, minicamp, and possibly even mandatory minicamp.
But, he should be good to go for training camp, unless there are major setbacks.

And, we should see the same Aaron Rodgers we were supposed to see this year in terms of the level of play he will be able to provide.

“I think if he rehabs it properly and gets a good outcome with the repair – he should be back to playing full strength by this time next year,” said Derr.

Ultimately, it sounds like Rodgers and the Jets should be fine. They’re just going to have wait another year to try and bring home the franchise’s second Lombardi.