Chargers’ cornerback J.C. Jackson will miss the remainder of the season due to a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. It’s an unfortunately serious injury that has long term implications.
Jackson went down with a non-contact injury shortly before halftime in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks and had to be carted off the field with an aircast on his leg. After the game, the Chargers announced Jackson had dislocated his patella (kneecap) and would undergo additional testing to determine the severity of the injury.
That MRI revealed the damage was much more significant than a dislocation. Jackson also suffered a ruptured patellar tendon, meaning his season is over. The tendon attaches the distal end of the kneecap (patella) to the proximal end of the shinbone (tibia). It also attaches to the quadriceps muscles by the quadriceps tendon. Together, the quadriceps muscles, quadriceps tendon, and patellar tendon work to straighten the knee, which allows us to run and jump.
Tears of the patellar tendon range from small to large (rupture). Small tears make putting weight on the knee painful, which makes little things – such as walking and other daily activities – difficult. A full rupture – like what Jackson suffered – is a disabling injury that requires surgery and physical therapy to regain full knee function and range of motion.
Generally, surgery has to be done as soon as possible so the arduous rehab process can begin. Early repair also can prevent the tendon from scarring, which results in a tight tendon in a shortened position.
Following surgery, Jackson won’t be able to put full weight on the knee until about six weeks. After that, he will begin a slow rehab process that will ramp up over time. Full recovery often takes 12 months, with some patients saying they felt fine after just six.
Patellar tendon ruptures have long term complications in the NFL. A study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine in June 2016 found that just 50% of players returned after having surgery on ruptured patellar tendons. Those that did return rarely reached pre-injury levels of performance and often had their careers cut short.