Anyone who watched the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears on September 9, 2018, took an emotional rollercoaster ride.
In living rooms across Wisconsin, fans gasped as Aaron Rodgers fell to the ground with his leg bent awkwardly under the weight of a linebacker. Many thought the game was over as Rodgers left the field in a cart. Some viewers predicting defeat changed the channel.
But, people who continued to watch saw an amazing comeback. Rodgers came back to the field for the second half of the game. Though he appeared to be in pain, he threw three touchdown passes and ended the game with an impressive 281 yards—mostly on one leg.
What did Aaron Rodgers do to his knee?
According to media reports on September 12, 2018, Rodgers suffered a sprained knee.
Fortunately, Rodgers is in great physical shape. His fitness and protective gear may have saved his leg from a career-ending injury. His ligaments and tendons stretched rather than snapped. Instead of breaking his bones flexed under the linebacker’s weight.
Normally, returning to play while still feeling pain is not a wise choice.
But, we can assume Rodgers worked with the team doctors and trainers to assess and minimize the effects of his knee injury during the half-time break.
Rodgers wouldn’t have been able to play on September 16 or September 23 if his injury threatened to damage his knee permanently.
Don’t try this at home.
Unless you play football with an NFL or an AFC team, Bone & Joint specialists do not recommend athletes return to the game after a severe injury. Especially, if the injury is still painful.
Continuing to play with a knee injury can cause permanent damage to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles supporting the structure of the knee; damage that could cause a lifetime of pain.
What happens when you sprain your knee?
The knee is an intricate joint made up of three bones: the femur, tibia, and patella, and four main ligaments.
Your anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL) and collateral ligaments that run along the inside and outside of your leg, hold your knee joint in place as you move.
During an injury like the one Rodgers experienced, the ligaments and tendons stretch beyond their normal limits. After the stretching occurs, the body rushes red and white blood cells to the site of the injury to protect and heal it. This rush of fluid creates swelling and can sometimes cause pain.
What happened while Rodgers was in the locker room?
Even if we knew, we couldn’t tell you.
But what we can share are the standard, post-injury procedures used by many sports medicine specialists, athletic trainers, and on-site orthopedic specialists.
After an initial evaluation to make sure the injury does not need immediate surgical attention, trainers and medical staff will start R.I.C.E. therapy.
R is for Rest.
After a knee injury, it’s important to rest. Walking and other activities that apply weight and pressure to the knee causes more pain and can damage your knee. Often, it also means you stop playing the game. Depending on the severity of the knee injury, it may be a few days or a few weeks before your healthcare provider releases you to play.
I is for Ice.
Lot’s of ice. Ice helps decrease the swelling and blood flow to your knee, which reduces inflammation and promotes healing. There are two guidelines to follow when you use ice. One is to put a towel, washcloth, or other fabric between your skin and the ice pack. The second guideline is to put ice on the injury for 20 minutes and then take it off for 20 minutes. Following these guidelines helps prevent frostbite. Ice therapy is most effective for the first 48 hours after injury.
C is for Compression.
Use an elastic bandage to wrap your knee. Compression helps stabilize the joint and reminds you not to move it too much.
E is for Elevate.
After wrapping and icing your knee, elevate it while you rest. Placing your lower leg on a stack of pillows as you lie down, positions your knee above your heart. Elevation prevents blood from rushing to your knee and helps excess fluid drain away from it. Elevating your knee also helps reduce the pain and swelling associated with the injury.
Your orthopedic specialist may recommend adding platelet-rich plasma therapy or PRP to the healing process. During this procedure, your healthcare provider draws your blood and runs it through a centrifuge to isolate the plasma and growth factors crucial for healing.
After the plasma and growth factors separate, your provider collects them in a syringe and re-injects them near the injury. The platelet-rich plasma helps decrease scarring and speeds healing.
PRP is not recommended for all types of injuries. As you and your healthcare provider can discuss your injury, he or she can decide whether PRP therapy would help your injury.
Knee sprains take time to heal no matter how well conditioned you are.
You can’t rush the healing process.
It takes time. Even for professionals like Aaron Rodgers.
He continued to play, but he protected his knee by wearing a knee brace during games following his initial injury.
When your medical provider clears you to play, you may need to wear a similar knee support or brace. While the added protection may interfere with your range of motion and speed, it may help you prevent a more severe injury.
Taking care of a knee injury immediately is the best way to prevent long-term damage to your knee’s delicate structures. Following your healthcare provider’s recommendations will help you preserve your range of motion, recover quickly, and get back into the game.
If an injury occurs during a practice or a game, Bone & Joint has a team of Sports Medicine Specialists who can treat your injury.