As podiatrists in Long Island, New York, we were excited to watch our New York Jets kick off the season with brand new quarterback Aaron Rodgers…and then crushed when, just four snaps into the game, he was knocked out with an injury that was first difficult to diagnose, and now seems to mean he won’t play another match this season. But what caused @aaarod’s injury? What does that mean for the Jets? And how can your podiatrists in Massapequa keep similar problems from sidelining our patients? Keep reading to find out!
Jets QB Aaron Rodgers is Out for the Season
In the fateful snap, Rodgers was sacked by a player on the opposing Buffalo Bills, landing awkwardly on his leg. Immediately, he was taken out of the game, with coaches fearing an ankle injury. First came good news—x-rays taken while game play was still in progress proved negative, meaning Rodgers hadn’t sustained a fracture. Yet, that was the end of the good news for Rodgers and the Jets. The following day, after undergoing an MRI, we learned that Rodgers tore his left Achilles tendon. As a result of the injury, we would not need surgery to repair his injury, and would not be able to play even one more game for the entirety of the 2023 season.
Torn Achilles Tendon: Causes and Symptoms
How could an injury to one tendon knock an elite athlete out of the game for an entire season—just when New Yorkers were hoping he could turn things around for the beleaguered Jets? Well, your Achilles tendon connects your heel bone and the muscles at the back of the calf. While it’s strong and fibrous, overstretching this tendon can cause it to partially or completely tear. (This injury is also referred to as a ruptured tendon.)
How can you tell if you’ve torn your Achilles tendon? While some people won’t notice any symptoms with this injury, you may:
• Feel like you’ve been kicked in your calf
• Experience severe pain, and or swelling, near your heel
• Lose the ability to stand on your toes, bend your foot down, or push off that foot in order to walk
• Hear a sound of snapping or popping, right when you sustain the injury.
Achilles Tendon Injury: Risk Factors and Causes
While anyone could injure their Achilles tendon, certain factors increase your risk for sustaining a rupture. Age is an important factor, as this injury is most likely to occur when you’re between the ages of 30 and 40. At 39, then Rodgers’ age almost certainly made him more vulnerable to Achilles concerns.
Plus, men are more likely to tear their Achilles’ tendons than women, meaning the Jets’ QB had another strike against him. Add in the fact the next risk factor: sports play—especially engaging in games, like football, that involve sudden stops and starts—and Rodgers’ injury almost seems inevitable.
Now, just because you have an elevated risk for an Achilles injury doesn’t mean your tendon will spontaneously rupture in the middle of your day. Typically, a specific incident will trigger this injury. For most people, that incident will involve a sudden increase of stress on the tendon, often from sports play, falling, or stepping into a pit. (In Rodgers’ case, two out of three of those circumstances was involved, leaving him with a torn tendon and a scheduled, season-ending, surgical repair.)
Treating an Achilles Tendon Injury
While the newest Jet is treating his injury surgically, that’s not your only option when it comes to recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Our podiatrists in Nassau County are able to treat an Achilles tendon injury with or without surgery. Your best option will depend on the severity of your tear, along with your age and typical activity level.
If we decide on a nonsurgical treatment plan, we’ll start by taking pressure off your tendon, meaning you’ll have to get around with the help of crutches. Next, we’ll put you on a regular icing schedule, to help relieve pain and inflammation. We’ll also need to immobilize your ankle, at least for the first few weeks following your injury. And that could happen with a cast that keeps your foot in downward flexion, or with a walking boot fitted with a wedge in the heel.
Now, this treatment plan allows you to avoid surgery. However, doing so could extend your recovery time, and your risk for repeat injuries may be slightly higher, even after your tendon heals.
Repairing the Achilles Tendon with Surgery
If we decide to surgically repair your Achilles tendon, we’ll need to make an incision above the sight of the rupture, toward the back of your lower leg, so that we can put your torn tendon back together. In some cases, we may need to use the support of other tendons to stabilize the Achilles.
Whether you repair your Achilles tendon surgically or otherwise, you’ll need to engage in physical rehabilitation in order to fully recover from this injury. There, you’ll be given exercises that are designed to strengthen the muscles in your leg and to restore the strength of the tendon, as well. While you should remain in rehab for a full year following your injury, most patients are able to resume their regular activities within six months. However, for athletes like Rodgers, that time frame may be extended since their “regular activities” are far more strenuous than those of the typical individual. In such cases, achieving a full recovery may also mean engaging in functional rehabilitation, which provides exercises that help coordinate your body parts as they move, in order to help you return to peak, pre-injury, performance levels.
Getting Back in the Game After a Sports Injury
While Rodgers won’t be back this NFL Season, Jets fans—and all sports fans—have reason to believe that this injury won’t mean the end of his career. After all, back in 2017, Rodgers spent the entire season with the Green Bay Packers playing on a broken leg. And, while his 2018 season illustrated the toll playing through an injury can take on your body, he rallied and kept on showing his athletic prowess in all the seasons that followed.
Of course, as sports podiatrists in New York, we want to see the Jets brand new QB come back and play. But, just as we do for our patients, we prioritize a full recovery over artificial timelines that are dictated by sports seasons. Dealing with Achilles pain or an injury that’s keeping you from the activities you love? Schedule a consultation in our office today. We’ll evaluate your injury and determine a treatment and rehabilitation program that will get you back in action as soon as possible—without compromising your recovery!