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Sidney Jones: Injury and Analysis of Potential Jets Draft Target

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NCAA Football: Oregon State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

With just about a month left in the draft, draft prospect Sidney Jones underwent successful surgery earlier this week to repair a torn Achilles suffered during his pro day at the University of Washington. This article will look into how this injury could affect his draft stock.

What is the injury?

Jones ruptured his Achilles’ tendon, the thick dense connective tissue that connects the gastrocsoleus complex (calf muscles) to the calcaneus (heel of the foot). The gastrocsoleus complex act to plantarflex the foot (aka point the toes away from your head). In other words, the motion you use to push down on the gas pedal while driving.

However, the gastrocsoleus complex is heavily used when you are walking and running. As one foot lands while walking/running, that same foot plantarflexes and uses their toes to push off the ground to propel them forward and land on the other foot. For this reason, the gastrocsoleus is very important to maintain the cyclical motion that is walking and running.

In addition, the same process happens when you are jumping, hopping, skipping, or leaping. The stronger those muscles, the higher or farther one can move their body. With a CB like Jones, the stronger his calves/Achilles tendon, the higher he can jump to break up a pass, farther he can leap to grab a potential INT, and faster he can run to defend a WR. For this reason, it is obviously very important rehab goes well so he can regain his elite form and have a successful career in the NFL.

How is the Achilles’ tendon commonly ruptured?

The most common way to injure the Achilles tendon is through explosive movement (i.e. quickly jumping or running at full speed). The force generated through explosive running and/or jumping is too much for the tendon to handle thus causing it to rupture. There are several variables that can contribute to the injury most notably limited dorsiflexion (toes pointing towards you) in the ankle. When the ankle dorsiflexes, the Achilles tendon is in a stretched position; if the tendon is tight, then it limits how well the ankle can pull the toes towards you. Before someone jumps or pushes off when walking/running, the ankle is in a dorsiflexion position before actively using their gastrocsoleus complex to plantarflex/push off. A tight tendon in a stretched position combined with the explosiveness needed to jump or accelerate while running makes the tendon very prone to rupture.

How long is the recovery process?

Overall, it is about a 6 month process to begin a return to sports program. The first two weeks, the patient will be in a cast/crutches or walking boot to assure the tendon heals appropriately. Over the next month (until 6 week mark), the patient will be allowed to bear more and more weight on that surgically repaired foot until he is cleared to put 100% weight on it. In this time, physical therapists will work towards regaining range of motion and strength as long as it abides by the restrictions doctors will place on the patient. To add, Jones and other patients will be working out other parts of their body to make sure the whole body does not decondition as the injured body part is healing.

If everything goes perfectly, Jones may start jogging at the 4 month mark and start a return to run program for the next 2 months. When jogging is initiated, an exercise program can be developed to challenge dynamic stability (being able to balance your body while moving) and power. Both components are essential to get one’s explosiveness back and to prevent a small or major tear in the Achilles’ again.

The timeline for this injury is based on an accelerated rehab protocol that athletes are starting to use. The more traditional rehab protocol is covered in this article I wrote when Antonio Allen had the same injury about 1.5 years ago. Any one of these scenarios can play out for Jones however barring any setbacks, Jones likely makes his debut at around 6-7 months from the surgery (thus missing the start of the season).