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December 12, 2017

An expert's opinion of Carson Wentz's likelihood of starting the 2018 season on time, and returning to 100 percent

Eagles NFL

When Carson Wentz tore his ACL on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, the Philadelphia Eagles' special 2017 season took as serious a hit as imaginable. Looking ahead, because Wentz's injury occurred as late in the season as it did, many are concerned that he may not be ready to play when the start of the 2018 season rolls around.

We followed up with Mike Collins, P.T., ATC, MBA, Vice President and National Director of Sports Medicine, NovaCare Rehabilitation, to get some insights into when Wentz can realistically return to the field, and whether or not he will be the same player whenever he does.

With Wentz tearing his ACL in early-to-mid-December, there will be a gap of around seven and a half months between his injury and the start of training camp in 2018. It will be a little less than nine months in between the injury and the start of the 2018 regular season.

"I would say (a return in time for training camp) is a possibility," said Collins. "There are a lot of factors involved, and we have loose parameters based on the injury, and then there is how the individual responds. I’ve treated lots of people who responded more quickly than others. A few years back, there was more of an accelerated rehab type of approach in getting people back very quickly, and there are stories here and there of people who got back in a very short time frame. 

"I would tell you that six-to-nine months is not out of the question, so that would put him right in that wheelhouse for training camp. With that said, an isolated ACL is one thing. If there are other injuries involved, it makes for a slightly more difficult rehab."

On Monday, Doug Pederson noted that his understanding was that there were no other associated knee injuries other than the ACL.

"With the report I got this morning, it was just ACL," he said.

With serious ligament injuries, the next question that always arises is whether or not the athlete can return to his previous form, pre-injury. According to Collins, there is a reasonable expectation that Wentz will.

"Absolutely," said Collins. "You can go down the line with many examples, from Adrian Peterson to way back in the day, Brian Westbrook. ACL injury is so prominent in the athletic population, and we have example after example of people who have recovered and performed at the same level.

"And that has to do with the quality of the surgical technique and the quality of the grafts being used. Because, remember, you cannot sew an ACL back together. You need to take tissue from somewhere else and reconstruct it. So again, the techniques, as well as the quality of graft, are significantly better than they were at one time."

And finally, will Wentz now be at greater risk of re-injuring his ACL after he has recovered?

"I would say no," Collins said. "This guy will have absolutely perfect rehab. He will be prepared before he goes back, and there’s any number of return-to-play protocols that they’ll follow. So I would not say it necessarily puts him at significant risk of re-injury. Statistically, when people look at these, someone who has had an injury – because now you’re dealing with a reconstruction vs. what God blessed you with  there's a slightly higher propensity for re-injury. I would say that’s across all demographics.

"When we’re dealing with an athlete with these levels of resources available to him, I would say he should be in pretty good shape, and the thought of a re-injury really shouldn’t even be there."

In other words, while Wentz's injury is devastating for the Eagles' Super Bowl aspirations in 2017, there is plenty of room for optimism in 2018 and beyond.

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