Will Julian Edelman’s Left Foot be a Problem for Him?

Julian Edelman, New England’s star wide receiver, suffered a Jones fracture of his left fifth metatarsal against the New York Giants on November 15th, 2015.

Edelman underwent screw fixation of his foot soon after, and sat out the final seven games of the regular season. After eight weeks of rest he returned for the playoff game against Kansas City, where he performed well. However, he was clearly hurting and hindered by his foot the following week, against Denver in the AFC Championship game, where he was noticeably less effective. After that game it was reported that he was in so much pain that he “couldn’t put on his shoe.” Now it’s been reported that Edelman recently had a second surgery for that fracture. Details of that surgery are scarce and conflicting, but he probably had his screw replaced with another and had bone graft placed.

This means that Edelman’s foot had not healed and required another surgery to attain healing. A recent study1 noted a 12 percent failure rate following initial fixation of Jones fractures. With modern accelerated rehab, the recommended range for return to play is 8-10 weeks, with an in-season average of 8.7 weeks. While Edelman may have waited the minimum ‘recommended’ amount of time before playing, he nevertheless probably returned too quickly for his particular circumstance/foot. This led to re-injury of his foot with its bone’s consequent failure to heal. Yet another NFL player that came back to quickly, leading to re-injury and further problems. Dez Bryant came back six weeks following this same injury, and you see how well his 2015 season went.

Following a second surgery for a Jones fracture (actually a ‘non-union’, or failure of the bone to heal) full healing usually takes 3-4 months. Us surgeons are happiest when he have some extra time ‘just in case’, i.e. 4-5 months between surgery and return to play. We’re roughly four months away from the start of the 2016 season, which begins for the Patriots on 9/11.

Foot injuries are tough for wide receivers and other players who rely on quick cuts and rapid changes of direction, like Edelman does. So while Edelman should be ready for the start of the season (after almost certainly missing time in training camp), Jones fractures are injuries that can be problematic and come without guarantees. So I’d be keeping an eye on Edelman’s updates, as few as they are when it comes to Patriots players, if you’re planning on drafting him this year.

  1. Lareau CR, Hsu AR, Anderson RB. Return to Play in National Football League Players After Operative Jones Fracture Treatment. Foot Ankle Int. 2016 Jan;37(1):8-16.  (back)

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