Jackson injury not so bad
By Albert Breer/Daily News staff
Thursday, March 29, 2007 - Updated: 11:07 PM EDT
There are few dirtier phrases in football than "Torn ACL."
But in the case of Patriots receiver Chad Jackson, that term may not be all that it seems. According to multiple sources close to the 2006 second-round pick, the degree of the tear in Jackson's knee was very slight compared to most cases.
The injury happened on a kickoff in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts and did not involve contact. In the days following the injury, word is that Jackson thought he had torn his ACL, but the swelling was so minimal that most around the receiver doubted it.
An MRI detected the tear. Reconstructive surgery cannot be performed until after the swelling goes down, which in this case allowed Jackson to have the surgery quickly.
Sources say that Jackson will be running by the time the Patriots hold their veteran minicamp in June and should be cleared for contact by the open of training camp in mid-July. But the thought is that, with the two-week trip involving the China Bowl looming over camp, Jackson will return to the field after the team's first two preseason games, both against the Seahawks.
These, of course, are all projections.
Dr. Paul Weitzel, an orthopedic surgeon for the Boston Sports and Shoulder Center, which works with the Celtics, said that the lack of swelling occurs in less than 10 percent of ACL tears. Basically, it signals a lack of bleeding into the knee, which allows a player to regain full range of motion quicker. And since full range of motion must be achieved before a knee reconstruction is performed, that accelerates the recovery timetable.
But, Weitzel added, the rehabilitation process remains at 6-12 months, meaning that the lack of swelling only works to cut the time between the injury and the surgery. After surgery, the rehab process is the same, whether the patient had swelling or didn't before the surgery.
"We replace, not repair, the ligament," said Weitzel. "The big difference comes in whether the ACL is competent or not after the injury. If it's not, it needs to be replaced."
Weitzel confirmed the sources' assertion that Jackson should be running by June and could be cleared by July, but added that the receiver would be "relearning his knee" at the beginning. With replaced proprioceptive fibers in his leg, Jackson would have to regain coordination there, and the speed at which one does that (projected at 12-18 months after surgery) is usually the difference between an athlete who recovers quickly and one who doesn't.
A hamstring injury cost Jackson almost all of last year's training camp, and a groin ailment suffered in practice in late November sidelined him for the first two games of December. The ACL injury is the latest hit, though Weitzel emphasized a string of injuries to start a pro career is not that uncommon and shouldn't derail Jackson's rehab in the least.
"Going from a college season to a professional season, there's a jump in hours of activity and demands," Weitzel said. "Some take longer to adapt, and that adaptation is manifested sometimes in injuries. Once they get the conditioning down, they're usually just fine."