Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets
Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets, Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers is trying to rehab aggressively to return to the New York Jets, but there are risks involved

Is Aaron Rodgers a medical marvel for the New York Jets?

Mark Sanchez’s jaw dropped as he was doing the FOX Sports pregame show for Jets-Eagles and saw Rodgers throwing footballs on the field. Rodgers’ Achilles tear occurred on September 11, barely over a month ago. The standard recovery process for such an injury is a full season.

Rodgers is being lauded as a freak of nature, superhuman, and other similar adjectives. Indeed, he has often seemed so in his Hall of Fame career.

Still, from a medical perspective, Rodgers’ recovery may not be as astounding as it seems — and his aggressive rehab may pose risks for both this season and next.

Achilles rehab protocol

Dr. Brian Sutterer, a doctor of sports medicine at Southeast Health in Missouri, posts regularly on YouTube and Twitter about sports injuries and the underlying medical science. He was one of the Twitter doctors who noted the pop in the back of Rodgers’ calf as a possible (though not definite) indicator of an Achilles tear.

Since then, Rodgers came out on The Pat McAfee Show and expressed the possibility that he will play again this season. He described that his rehab protocol is cutting-edge and will allow him an accelerated return timetable. It has been reported that Rodgers underwent the same procedure that allowed Rams running back Cam Akers to return to play 5½ months after an ACL tear.

The videos of Rodgers first on crutches, then without them at Jets games have caused quite a stir. When Rodgers was out on the field throwing footballs before the Jets-Eagles game, the hype blossomed out of control.

The reality

Dr. Sutterer took the window out of the sails of some of this hoopla, though. He pointed out that Rodgers’ ability to maneuver with crutches, and even without them for short periods of time, is normal for many Achilles surgeries.

Sutterer also said the quiet part out loud: how effective can the 40-year-old Rodgers really be if he rushes his return?

Dr. Sutterer analyzed Rodgers’ walking on crutches during the Jets-Chiefs game. He said that Rodgers might be slightly ahead of a typical Achilles recovery, but it’s not anything particularly out of the ordinary. He also noted that both Rodgers’ movement and weight-bearing were for short periods of time, which does not indicate how he can do with it for a long time. This applies also to Rodgers’ five-minute pregame throwing session before the Eagles game.

On the flip side, though, Dr. Sutterer pointed out that it’s the running and jumping that are the most concerning with an Achilles recovery. Since Rodgers is a quarterback, the loss of mobility may not be as devastating to him as it would be to those at other positions.

The doctor clarified that the biggest risk for Rodgers is that the Achilles will heal in a stretched position. Still, considering that he is near the end of his career, that might be a risk Rodgers is willing to take in order to return, whereas a younger player would be more careful not to impact their long-term prognosis.

What does this mean?

This is certainly a gray area in Rodgers’ recovery. How compromised will he be if he returns on an accelerated timetable? Could he potentially hurt his ability to come back in 2024 for another run? That appears to be a risk Rodgers is willing to take.

Robert Saleh said in a press conference that players on injured reserve, especially veterans, get a lot of leeway in their rehab protocols. It’s possible that Rodgers made that choice with Dr. ElAttrache without significant input from the Jets’ medical staff.

Either way, the Jets are still rolling with Zach Wilson for the foreseeable future. After their thrilling victory over the Eagles, the possibility of Rodgers returning for a postseason run will linger in fans’ minds.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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1 month ago

It seems as though many still treat Aaron Rodgers as some kind of egomaniacal thrill freak who just seeks attention.
He’s a 39 yr old very accomplished man with more intelligence and passion than most.
I seriously doubt he is doing anything outside of the medical advice he’s getting.
It appears that some folks just want to serve as a wet blanket for any optimism.

I can only hope that AVT is using the same surgeon and medical team.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 month ago

When I was 17 I wrapped my mother’s car around a telephone pole, breaking my left femur. I had an operation where they put a steel rod down the center of the femur where the marrow usually is. I was told to put zero pressure on that leg for 12 weeks. Hot shot 17-year old Jon figures “Well, it can’t hurt to just limp on it a little bit, right? Not putting my entire weight on it should be ok, right? In week 7 I was playing ping pong. I went reach for a backhand and my leg bent. I had to have the procedure all over again and start the 12 week of no pressure all over again. I am worried that Aaron is pushing himself too hard.