Written by Dr. Charles Ruotolo, M.D.
Javonte Williams was diagnosed with an anterior cruciate ligament tear and lateral collateral/posterolateral corner injury. He has been placed on IR with this season ending injury. Last year as a rookie he rushed for 903 yards and a 4.4 yard average. This year he had already racked up 204 yards prior to his injury. This is a devastating injury as this is more complex than your average ACL injury which by itself is not a guarantee of returning to the same level of play for a NFL player.
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries are common in the National Football League. In a 5 Year study 62 athletes in the NFL tore their ACL each year. Most occurred during games as compared to practice and there was a higher rate in preseason games than in the regular season. The numbers on long term return to play after an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the NFL is bleak. In a study of 312 ACL injuries in the NFL 174 or 55.8% returned to play, but only 28.5% remained in the league 3 years post injury. Quarterbacks were the most likely to return to play at 92.9% vs 53.7% for all the other players. Running backs, defensive linemen, and linebackers performed the worst after injury. In another study on ACL tears in the NFL from 2013-2015 there was no difference in RTP for players with less than 4 years experience compared with those who played longer, but there was a difference in RTP depending on where the athlete was picked in the draft. Players picked in the first 3 rounds were 4.44 times more likely to RTP than athletes picked in rounds 4 or higher.
Athletes with multi-ligament injuries have a lower return to play than isolated ACL tears. ACL and MCL tears do the best in this group with return to play being 70.8% and athletes with associated LCL tears such as Javonte Williams do the worst with return to play being only 55.6%. These numbers are even worse when talking about return to the same level of performance with ACL or PCL with LCL injuries returning only 18.5% of the time. Javonte Williams odds of return are not great and his odds on returning to the same level of performance and his long term prospects after this injury are bleak.
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