Head injuries: analysis of Lucas Niang’s patellar tendon rupture – and potential return

The last time Kansas City Chiefs Fans watched Lucas Niang’s attack on the football field more than eight months ago during 34-31 loss to me Cincinnati Bengals At week 17.

Niang suffered a rupture (rupture) patellar tendon Six games in the game – and since then, the Chiefs haven’t said much about the injury. Niang did not train with the team in the off-season or in training camp, as he was placed on the Off-Season Active/PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) roster – and then as the season began, on the Regular-Season Reserve/PUP roster. Under NFL rules, the closest Niang could return to the 53-player roster after Kansas City’s Week 4 game against 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.

Given that the Chiefs’ offensive streak has been operating on pre-season expectations, curiosity about Niang’s recovery is high. But keep in mind that a torn patellar tendon is a very serious (and often career-changing) injury.

Let’s take a closer look at the injury – and when to expect Niang’s return.

patellar tendon anatomy

Although the knee is Subscriber stops – which means that like the elbow, it can only flex and extend – it is a very complex joint. It consists of several ligaments, muscle attachments, and two distinct joints within the entire knee joint capsule complex. Think of the patellar tendon as you would a anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): as a file installed for the knee joint. The patellar tendon should not be viewed as just connective tissue.

Lateral view of the knee joint to illustrate the patellar tendon and its stabilization in the knee joint and articulation of other structures.

chord connecting from patella (commonly called the patella) to shin (tibia bone), fuses with Quadriceps tendon They emerge from the quadriceps muscle group, which is made up of four distinct muscles: rectus femorisAnd the vastus medialAnd the middle dilated And the vastus monstrous. The patellar tendon acts as an additional stabilizer for the knee joint, strengthening the anterior (anterior) part of the knee and preventing excessive flexion of the knee. As it relates to the quadriceps muscle complex, it is a vital component of knee extension.

Similar to other soft tissues in the body, the patellar tendon can become injured due to eccentric overload. Eccentric contractions occur when the tendon lengthens. This tendon can also be torn due to direct force or deep flexion of the knee.

On the court, a patellar tendon tear can be distinguished from other soft tissue injuries because the athletic trainer is able to palpate a crack or defect at the site of the injury. Other ligamentous structures of the knee are not easily palpated by medical staff. After a patellar tendon rupture, the athlete is also unable to actively extend the knee due to its attachment to the quadriceps complex. This is a telltale sign of infection.

But nothing in the medical field has been cut and dried—so when Niang’s injury was initially diagnosed, the Kansas City medical staff likely did their due diligence testing other structures of the knee not only in the field, but also with imaging. In this way, they can fully assess the potential damage to other structures.

Unfortunately, the bosses are reluctant to reveal specific information regarding the injured players; We don’t know if Niang’s injury was just a patellar tendon rupture or if other structures were involved. This is where the guesswork for getting Niang back into the field begins.

When will Niang return?

For soccer players, a patellar tendon rupture is a serious injury – an injury that is much rarer than that of other knee ligament structures. Unfortunately, the recovery and return to play data for this injury is not optimistic. A 2016 study found that the return-to-play rate for patellar tendon ruptures was only 50%, the lowest of any soft tissue injury to the knee or lower body considered in the study.

But despite this alarming statistic, a panic alarm shouldn’t go off automatically.

First, not all athletes are the same. Obviously, different positions on the court will put different forces on the body. The wear (and direct impact on the knee joint) for the attacking lineman differs greatly from what it is in other positions. Different body types, age, and previous injury history are other factors that are involved in estimating recovery.

Second, not all injuries are exactly the same; There are different degrees and severity. The athletes in the study may have experienced other skeletal damage that Niang didn’t — or vice versa.

Third, medical procedures continue to evolve and improve. One of the current surgical methods for repairing a torn patellar tendon involves the surgeon making small holes in the patella and using stitches to reattach the tendon to the bone. The surgery follows several weeks of putting no weight on the joint, allowing it to heal (and for stitches to adhere to the bone).

There are several notable NFL players who have suffered this injury and returned to the field – all with differing schedules and success scores:

player injured is back Notes
T Jimmy Graham 11/29/15 09/11/16 The next season is repeated, starting with 15 of 16 with a baseline of 65-923-6.
WR Victor Cruz 10/12/14 09/11/16 A calf injury at training camp delayed recovery, and required another surgery. Returned in 2016 with a statistic line 39-586-1
RB Cadillac Williams 09/30/07 11/23/08 Other patellar tendon rupture 11/28/08. The next full season was 2009, with a stat streak of 211-832-4.
LB Giroud Mayo 10/12/14 10/09/15 He returned the following season, playing in all 16 games – but not as a starter. It ended with 47 full interventions and one bag.
OT Jack Conklin 11/28/21 09/22/22 He returned in Week 3, playing 100% of Cleveland’s offensive shots.

The common denominator when comparing each player’s recovery is rehabilitation for at least 10 months from the date of injury to the player’s return. Here, Conklin should be seen as the guiding principle when measuring Niang’s return to the field – given that they play the same position and Conklin’s injury occurred less than two months before Niang’s; Therefore, the surgical methods are likely to be similar.

Conklin returned to the field and started every shot of Cleveland Browns Last week, nearly 10 months to the day after his injury. It should also be noted that Conklin she did He trained with the team in the bootcamp; He was not immediately returned to a regular season game.

Given the recent history of this particular injury in the NFL — and the fact that Niang has not yet returned to the training field — the most realistic time frame for a return will likely be from late October to early November. This should be seen as the best case scenario. Anything faster than this would be contrary to recent NFL trends.

Given the importance of depth at Niang’s position – and especially considering the team’s offensive line or strike action to start the season – this could be troubling news. However, in the long run, it is important that Niang not be brought back onto the field too soon. In the past, this was a devastating injury to other players. It is therefore in the best interest of the player (and the team) to ensure that Niang is fully recovered before he returns.

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