Should the NY Jets Sign Lamar Jackson? Insights Into His PCL Injury

Lamar Jackson, the star quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, is a free agent and there are some rumors that he might not return to the Ravens next year.  There are other rumors linking him to the NY Jets.  Jackson has made it to the playoffs in 3 out of 4 season with the Ravens and was named the NFL MVP in 2019.  He is without an agent and is representing himself in contract negotiations.  

The big concern with Jackson, though, is his knee injury.  When he was initially injured it was thought he would only lose 1-3 weeks but he never made it back to play during the 2022 season.  Lamar tweeted out on Jan 12, 2023 “I’ve suffered a PCL grade 2 sprain on the borderline of a strain 3.  There is still inflammation surrounding my knee and my knee remains unstable. I’m still in good spirits, as I continue with treatments on the road to recovery. I wish I could be out there with my guys more than anything but I can’t give a 100% of myself to my guys and fans I’m still hopeful we still have a chance.”

The posterior cruciate ligament is a large ligament in the center of the knee that prevents the tibia from displacing backward or posteriorly on the femur. Injuries to the PCL can cause instability where the knee shifts back and forth.  This can cause cartilage damage, swelling, and progressively it can cause osteoarthritis on the inside (medial) aspect of the knee and under the knee cap (the patellofemoral joint).  Surgery for the PCL usually means at least a year of rehabilitation and does not guarantee return to play.  Little data has been published on isolated PCL injuries in the NFL.  A study published in the Journal of Arthroscopy in 2017 on PCL injuries identified at the NFL combine showed that 3% of players had a PCL injury and about half had a grade 2 or 3 sprain.  1/3 of these players also had concomitant cartilage injuries.  While many of the grade 2 sprains were drafted all of the grade 3 sprains went undrafted.  

The decision for any team that picks up Lamar Jackson will partially rest on the condition of his injured knee and any team that does pick him will have to do its due diligence to thoroughly examine his knee.  That said, his knee is a concern as it has not recovered after 6 weeks or rehabilitation and remains inflamed, which is typically code for swollen.  This scenario has a high likelihood of needing surgery putting him on the shelf maybe throughout next season, and surgery is not a guarantee of return to play.  To date there are no studies on return to play for PCL surgery in the NFL.


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