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Patrick Mahomes May Return Sooner Than Expected, But Is That Wise? Dr. Jeffrey Budoff Discusses

Orthopedic surgeon and auction expert, Dr. Jeffrey Budoff, provides injury analysis for fantasy football owners during the 2019 NFL season. Today, he looks at the patellofemoral dislocation suffered by Patrick Mahomes.

Patrick Mahomes, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, left Week 7’s Thursday night game with a patellofemoral (kneecap) dislocation. This means that his kneecap dislocated out of its groove towards the outside of his leg.


This ended his night.

An MRI reported the best case scenario, considering the circumstances: No cartilage damage and no additional injuries. His reported timeline for return to play is three to four weeks. He took part in a light individual practice this Wednesday. 

So, when should fantasy football players (and other fans) expect Mahomes to return? The criteria for safe return to play includes the absence of knee pain and swelling, a full range of motion, normal strength (or close to it) and good stability of the kneecap within its groove during sports-related activities, ie. normal sports function, such as cutting from side to side, without feelings of instability. 

As far as I know, this is Mahomes’ first patellofemoral dislocation. It is certainly possible that he returns to play in three to four weeks. That would be Week 10 or 11. However, return that early does come with an increased risk of a second patellofemoral dislocation. And while Mahomes might not need surgery following a single dislocation (although he may certainly have a ligament repair/reconstruction performed in the off-season), a second dislocation would end his regular season and could easily damage his knee’s cartilage, causing chronic, long-term problems. It would also necessitate surgery at the end of the season, at the latest.

The Chiefs have a Week 12 bye. Waiting six to eight weeks before returning to play would be much safer for Mahomes, as far as minimizing re-injury. Holding him out until after the bye would give his knee ligaments six weeks to heal. Giving his knee this additional time to heal is safer for Mahomes than an earlier return. For Kansas City, a lesser chance of re-injury leads to a lower chance of creating a long-term knee problem for their franchise player.

Following return, I’d expect Mahomes to play well. He’ll probably wear a brace, but his mobility shouldn’t be significantly impaired by his knee, especially if he waits until after his bye to play.

In fact, the high ankle sprain that’s limited him for nearly the entire season should be healed by then. This could mean improved mobility, compared to what he’s displayed since injuring his ankle in Week 1.

It’s currently unclear if the Chiefs and Mahomes will be willing to play it safe and wait until Week 13 to return him to the field, or if they’ll go with the YOLO approach of him returning to play before their bye. These are the issues that they’ll be discussing in an effort to arrive at a decision. The fact that Mahomes is practicing at all only six days after injury makes me think that he’s going to try to go the Superman route.

Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Patrick Mahomes.

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