Andy Reid said it would be a “real stretch” for Brandon Graham to be ready for the 2011 season opener. He is usually the optimist when it comes to injuries and timetables for a player’s return which is typically relayed by one of his “we’ll see how he does there” answers. This almost certainly means Graham will miss some, most, or all of next season. The question is how serious is Graham’s injury? He tore both his ACL and meniscus, which means the seriousness of his injury is much more than if it were just his ACL or meniscus. However, both injuries together increase the complexity for a return to 100% health.
Full recovery from an ACL injury is, on average for NFL players, 9 – 12 months. Recovery from a meniscus tear is typcially 3 – 6 weeks. Due to both injuries, Graham is probably expected to be closer to the 12 month recovery time frame (which would be December). Now for the worse news: according to this 2009 study, players that suffer a torn meniscus have shorter careers as compared to those that had torn ACL’s only. Furthermore, injuries to both proved to be “more detrimental to an athlete’s durability than either surgery alone“. The study was somewhat limited because of the small size of the sample group (54 players total, only 11 of whom had both injuries) and does state further research is needed. However, this is cause for a little concern over the long term viability of Graham.
In addition to the concern the study raises, there is also a possibility that Graham will either re-injure his knee or sustain another injury due to overcompensating for his original injury. Just take a look at Aaron Kampman and Kris Jenkins — they both suffered back-to-back season ending injuries to their ACL’s (2009 and 2010). Jamal Jackson also suffered a 2nd consecutive season ending injury while trying to return from his torn ACL, though the 2nd injury was to his triceps. Stacy Andrews was another example of a player that struggled to return from a torn ACL.
All of this isn’t to say Graham’s career is over because he is, in fact, fully expected to return to football. This is mainly to point out the severity of his injury and the rather shocking results of that study about meniscus injuries. At the least, we really can’t count on him for the 2011 season. If he does return at some point next year, he will likely not be much of a factor. Consequently, we should look towards the 2012 season as the season we hope to see Graham realize the potential the Eagles believe he has. Also, if that study has any significance, his career may now be shortened. That means his window of opportunity for good production could be a small one. I know we will all be pulling for him though. Good luck Brandon and get well!