By: Nick Weimer
In Week 7 last year against Oakland, Maurice Jones-Drew suffered an injury to his left foot that caused him to miss the rest of the season. The Jacksonville Jaguars debated whether Jones-Drew should undergo surgery, and at last decided for surgery eight weeks after the injury occurred. Now, with training camp for the Jaguars beginning on July 25th, the question remains will Jones-Drew be back in time for camp? More importantly, will the 28-year-old bruiser of a running back be 100% with his surgically repaired foot in 2013, and years to come? Let’s take a look at what a Lisfranc injury entails, the expected recovery time, and stories from around the league of previous Lisfranc injuries.
The human foot is rather crowded, with 26 bones and over 100 ligaments. In between your actual toes (called phalanges) and the heel of your foot lie seven particular bones that make up the midfoot, collectively called the tarsals. As you can expect, there are joints that connect the base of the toes to the midfoot (called the Lisfranc Joint Complex). An injury to this section of the foot happens when any of these three joints dislocates, usually caused by a break in one of the previously mentioned bones, exactly what Jacksonville’s workhorse back Maurice Jones-Drew experienced. When his weight squishes the top of his foot into the ground or a step is made in an awkward position, the foot’s natural arch gets misshaped and midfoot bones have a chance to dislocate and/or fracture.
But, why is the midfoot important? The midfoot allows the shift of force from the lower leg to the toes, which then propels our weight for the next step. It also forms the arch of the foot, which deals with balance and distribution of our weight. As an NFL player, particularly a running back, the midfoot is arguably the most important part of their body from an anatomical perspective.
If the decision is made to have surgery on the Lisfranc Complex, it is because the fracture is so severe that it requires internal fixation, or a realigning of the bones with plates, screws, or another type of fixator. In other words, the bones and joints would not function the same without intervention. Upon recovery from surgery, the bones are in the correct anatomical position and can function as normal.
Recovery from such an injury is a lengthy process, though, and players are advised to take up to 8 weeks of non-weight bearing rest to ensure the healing process has completed. Following this is an additional 8 weeks of walking in an assisted boot. Maurice Jones-Drew’s Lisfranc surgery was performed by renowned Foot & Ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, the Carolina Panthers team physician. Dr. Anderson has done surgery for numerous athletes such as Matt Schaub, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ronnie Brown, Stephen Curry, and Derek Jeter.
The good news for Jones-Drew is that his foot is past this stage of healing. He now is focusing on rehabilitation and returning to playing form. Jones-Drew has added unwanted weight as a result of the injury, weight that he plans on losing before camp. “The weight is going to come off as I work out,” Jones-Drew said. “All I could do (after surgery) was eat. With this injury, you don’t want to break the screws and have to get the surgery over again. I couldn’t move.”
Rehabilitation seems all too familiar to the NFL star. The last time Maurice Jones-Drew came back from injury was 2010 (torn knee meniscus), and upon his return, he rolled his way to a league leading 1,606 rushing yards on 343 attempts and played in all sixteen regular season games in 2011. Jones-Drew has been rehabbing with trainers in Miami, away from the team. New Head Coach Gus Bradley approves of the situation, although Jones-Drew will need to meet with the team to learn the new offense that Bradley will install. “It sounds like he is making progress and his weight is coming down. It feels like the workouts are going good down there,” said Bradley.
Running Backs have generally been able to come back from Lisfranc injuries and perform like they did prior to the injury. In 2009, Ronnie Brown (who’s surgery was also done by Dr. Anderson) went on to play in all 16 games and post 976 yards from scrimmage (200 carries) the following season despite splitting time with Ricky Williams. Warrick Dunn and Brian Westbrook are also members of the Lisfranc Injury Club. Dunn came back from offseason surgery (at the same age as Jones-Drew now) in 2004 and ran for 3,662 rushing yards and played in all 48 games over the next three seasons. In 2005, Brian Westbrook suffered a Lisfranc injury and exploded for 1,916 total yards on 317 offensive touches the following year (although Westbrook’s injury did not need surgery).
In the case of a major setback, Jacksonville’s rushing attack would most likely be a timeshare with Justin Forsett, who only has one NFL game with twenty or more rushing attempts, and possibly FA Beanie Wells, who worked out for the team in early June. It’s a situation to monitor, but all signs are pointing to Jones-Drew being ready for the start of the season. If that’s the case, I’m fully confident that the injury won’t hold him back from being a fantasy force again in 2013. Our staff rankings have MJD ranked very favorably, and I’m right there with them. Draft Maurice Jones-Drew with confidence in 2013 as your second RB, he has top 5 RB upside and with the injury issues behind him, may be ready to get back there in 2013!