During Week 11,1 D’Onta Foreman, the Texans promising rookie running back, tore his Achilles tendon. Many were expecting Foreman to greatly cut into Lamar Miller’s workload in 2018, possibly even supplanting him as the lead running back in the Houston backfield. The question then arises: how will this injury affect these expectations?
It must be understood that an Achilles tendon rupture is a devastating injury for a professional athlete. The Achilles tendon transmits all of the force from the calf muscles/gastrocnemius-soleus unit to the foot. You may be interested to know that these muscles are, pound for pound, the strongest muscles in the human body. The Achilles tendon is, therefore, a critical structure for running, jumping, cutting, and athletic performance.
Foreman was given a six-to-nine month timeline, meaning that he’ll be limited or out during training camp. While that’s reasonable, it’s also somewhat on the optimistic side.
A recent paper from October 2017 involving 62 professional athletes (32 from the NFL, 25 from the NBA and 5 from MLB) that underwent Achilles tendon repair reported that 19/62 (30.6 percent) were not able to return to play. In other words, their professional athletic career was over following this injury.1
The 69 percent that did return averaged only 75 percent of games in their first year back and 82 percent of games during their second year back. Playing time and athletic performance were both significantly decreased during the first year back. By the second year back, performance was not significantly different than baseline. Of note, NBA players were the most affected by this injury.1
Another good article noted that 7 of 9 (78 percent) NFL players returned to play following Achilles tendon repair, at an average of 8.9 months after surgery.2
As examples, Arian Foster, Derrick Johnson, and Brandon Oliver returned to play following Achilles tendon repair. Feel free to judge for yourself, but in my opinion, they never really returned to their previous level of play. Terrell Suggs might be the exception that did.
So what does this mean for Foreman and his dynasty owners? It means that there’s a greater than 20 percent chance his career is over. If he does return, the odds are extremely high that he’s not going to be at 100 percent during the 2018 season. 2019 is the earliest realistic expectation for him to be back where he was athletically. Draft and trade accordingly.
- Trofa DP, Miller JC, Jang ES, Woode DR, Greisberg JK, Vosseller JT. Professional Athletes’ Return to Play and Performance After Operative Repair of an Achilles Tendon Rupture. Am J Sports Med. 2017 Oct;45(12):2864-2871.
- McCullough KA, Shaw CM, Anderson RB. Mini-open repair of achilles rupture in the national football league. J Surg Orthop Adv. 2014 Winter;23(4):179-83.
- 11-19-17 (back)