Benjamin Watson and the Baltimore Ravens were on the receiving end of devastating news when it was announced that Watson would miss the entire 2016 NFL season due an Achilles tendon tear. According to ESPN, Watson was injured in Saturday’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions. The Achilles tendon tear took place during Baltimore’s first offensive drive of the game. John Harbaugh, the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, commented on the injury and why he believes preseason games are to blame.
“It’s not the ’70s anymore. These guys playing in these games — it’s tough — and they’re not meaningful games. They are important to get better, and they improve us. But we football coaches can find ways to get our guys ready and get our players evaluated without the kind of risk that a game necessarily entails. I’m really hopeful that the union and the league can get together and do something that’s good for everybody — especially what’s good for the players and for the fans. If you go more games, fewer preseason games and bigger rosters, that’s good for everybody. To me, that’s something that they can put their heads together and work out. It would be a positive.”
— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) August 27, 2016
What Is the Achilles Tendon?
According to WebMD, the Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body. The design of the tendon is one of the main reason that humans are able to move seamlessly on two legs. With each step, the tendon compresses and extends depending on if a person is walking, standing, or running. The Achilles is under a lot of tension, which makes it vulnerable to different types of injuries.
What Is Achilles Tendon Surgery, Rehab, and Recovery?
When the Achilles tendon is torn, like with Benjamin Watson, surgery needs to be done. Surgery may be delayed in order to allow the surrounding area to decrease in size due to swelling. Once the lower leg is opened up, the surgeon will locate the two pieces of the tendon that were torn. The surgeon will stretch the tendon out and stitch the two ends together.
After surgery is complete, the patient will be placed in some type of cast to allow the sutures to completely adhere. Since the Achilles tendon is normally in a position that is high in tension, the foot is placed in such a way that the toes are pointed toward the ground. In this position, the Achilles tendon is compressed, relieving the amount of tension on it. This phase of recovery can last up to 12 weeks.
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) August 25, 2016
Once it is decided that the Achilles tendon surgery was successful, physical therapy can begin. One of the first types of exercises done in physical therapy is done to regain the range of motion that the patient had prior to the torn tendon. When the two ends of the tendon are sewn together, the overall length is slightly less than it was prior to the injury. The patient must slowly stretch the tendon out to the length that it was prior to the surgery.
Once it has been decided that all of the range of motion has returned, weight training exercises can begin. Since a patient does not use the injured leg during recovery, atrophy of the muscles occur. In order to counteract this, the patient must slowly do specific weight lifting exercises to get the musculature in their leg back to where it was prior to the injury.
From start to finish, a person who tears their Achilles tendon can expect six to eight months of recovery before they are back to 100 percent.
[Photo by Nick Wass/AP Photo]