For those who have recently joined Stampede Blue, I ran a short series over the summer covering how our favorite injured players were doing in their rehab progress, and what the realistic chances were for their return.
I hadn't originally been intending to continue the series through the regular season, but became curious enough to do some research into the nature of Anthony Gonzalez's injury.
Please note that although I labeled this "Dr. Blue," I am not a doctor, I do not play one on TV, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, I have a little personal experience with sports injuries, have friends in the medical profession, and I can research the HECK out of the Internet (where you can believe everything you read). With that... here's what I found out:
Anthony Gonzalez, WR
Date of Injury: September 13, 2009
Nature of Injury: Right knee PCL strain
Typical Rehab Process/Duration: Depends on nature and severity of injury, but for lower grade injuries typically RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Recovery ranges from a few weeks for grade 1 injuries, to 1 year for grade 3.
Against Jacksonville in Game 1, Anthony Gonzalez burst off the line of scrimmage, only to crumple to the ground untouched a second later, having suffered a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) strain. He was helped off the field, and did not return to the game.
Having heard of ACLs and MCLs, but not much about PCLs, I did a bit of research (i.e., I put Google through its paces). Here's what I learned: the knee has 4 key ligaments that act to keep the knee stable - 2 on the sides of the knee (the collateral ligaments), and 2 on the interior of the knee (the cruciate ligaments). The cruciate ligaments form a cross inside the knee and stabilize front-to-back, with the ACL in the front and PCL in the back.
PCLs are known for being much sturdier and less likely to be injured than the ACL (there are about 10 times more ACL injuries than PCL injuries). Interestingly, the most typical PCL injury happens to people involved in automobile accidents - when the dashboard slams into the driver's bent knee forcing the tibia backwards. While PCLs can be damaged through such high-force impacts, a simple misstep causing the tibia to move backward on the femur can also be to blame for a PCL injury. This is what looks to have happened to Gonzalez.
Like many other ligament injuries, those to the PCL are graded according to their severity. There was some discrepancy of what Grade 1, 2 and 3 mean, primarily whether Grade 3 involves damage to other ligaments. But generally, Grade 1 is a stretch without tear, Grade 2 is a partial tear, and Grade 3 a complete tear. Assuming we have all the information, we can surmise that Gonzalez suffered at most a Grade 2 partial tear. (Had he had a Grade 3 tear, it would have likely required surgery and a recovery time of 6-12 months.)
However, the timeline is still in question. Original reports indicated Gonzo would be out 2-6 weeks, and could return after the bye in mid-October. We are now hearing the range could be 2-8 weeks, a variance of 50%. The fact that the range has changed makes me wonder whether the damage wasn't more extensive, or perhaps the Colts FO is just taking precautions now that Baskett is on board and could provide sufficient depth until Gonzalez is fully healed.
The good news is that 50-80% of athletes suffering from PCL strains are expected to return to their pre-injury form, so with proper rehabilitation and the hard work we already expect from Gonzalez, he has a great chance to be back to the Gonzo we know.
Dr. Blue's Prognosis - Next likely Gonzo sighting: Similar to my rationale for believing they activated Bobzilla so he could play against division rival Tennessee in week 5, I could see a full rest period for Gonzo and have him ready to play week 9, at home against Houston.