Arian Foster, Achilles Tendon Rupture

Arian Foster, Houston Texans Running Back

Arian Foster is reported to have sustained an achilles tendon rupture in the Texans’ 44 to 26 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday (video of injury here).  It has already been announced that Foster will miss the remainder of the season.  The real questions is if he will ever return to playing in the NFL and if so, at what level.  When healthy, Foster is a fantasy football team owner’s dream.  If you are playing in a keeper league,  given his past numbers and high fantasy draft stock, it is quite possible that he is on you our your opponent’s team for years to come.  

How severe is Arian Foster’s injury?

Achilles tendon injuries are classified from Grade I to Grade III.  Foster is reported to have sustained a grade III strain, also known as a complete rupture.  More information about the grading system below:

AchilleTendon-Injury-LG

Grade I: Mild strain, disruption of a few fibers. Mild to moderate pain, tenderness, swelling, stiffness. Expected to heal normally with conservative management.

Grade II: Moderate strain, disruption of several fibers. Moderate pain, swelling, difficulty walking normally. Expected to heal normally with conservative management.

Grade III: Complete rupture, often characterized by a “pop,” immediate pain, inability to bear weight. Typically requires surgery to repair.

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What is next for Foster?

Foster will likely undergo a surgical procedure to repair his achilles tendon within the next week or so.  Immediately following the surgery he will be in a cast and using crutches to avoid putting any weight on the operative limb for 2-4 weeks.  After that he will be wearing a walking boot and slowly increasing the amount of weight he is putting through his leg during walking activities.  He will likely go through a therapy protocol lasting roughly 6 months before he is able to resume athletic activities (sample rehab protocol here).  

His rehab will include pain and swelling management using modalities such as the Gameready ice machine.  He will also likely undergo hands-on therapy including joint mobilization and trigger point dry needling to decrease pain and increase mobility.  His exercise program will be geared towards strengthening and stabilization of his core and entire lower extremity to decrease the likelihood that he will suffer another season-ending injury.  Proprioceptive training is extremely important in recovering from and protecting against injury.  Here’s an example of a proprioceptive training progression:

 

Will Arian Foster ever be the same?

Possibly.  A study published in 2009 investigated achilles tendon ruptures in the NFL and their impact on player performance.  The researchers found that on average, players experienced a greater than 50% decrease in power ratings following an achilles tendon rupture.  Furthermore, roughly 32% of players that sustained an achilles tendon rupture never returned to play in the NFL.  

Given recent data on achilles tendon ruptures and Foster’s explosive style of play, The Therapydia PTs feel that if Foster was your first pick in a keeper league, it may be time to look for a different league.  
Prediction: Arian Foster returns next season as a much less productive back, if he returns at all.  

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