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As Aaron Rodgers rehabs from torn Achilles, doctor offers insight into recovery

Fox News Digital spoke with Dr. Bonnie Chien, orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, to discuss an Achilles tear injury.

When Aaron Rodgers went down just four days into the NFL season, fans of the New York Jets and of the NFL believed they had seen the last of the four-time MVP until the 2024 season rolled around. 

Rodgers’ torn Achilles is a devastating injury for any athlete, let alone a quarterback in his 19th season set to turn 40 years old in December.

This past Sunday, prior to New York’s Week 6 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Rodgers went viral for throwing passes on the MetLife turf nearly five weeks after undergoing an "innovative" surgery.

That surgery, performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, included putting an internal brace on the torn Achilles tendon, which is designed to speed up the rehab process, according to NFL Network.


Dr. Bonnie Chien, an orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, spoke with Fox News Digital about the general aspects of an Achilles tear surgery, the rehab process and the timeline for an athlete to return from the injury.

"The idea is that they put stitches, or strong sutures, through the Achilles tendon, and then they drill a hole in the heel bone, in the back, where the Achilles inserts into the heel bone. And then you basically anchor the Achilles within your bone," Chien said of the Achilles procedure that puts an internal brace on the torn Achilles tendon.

"The idea, or the way they advertise the implant, is that it can help you potentially speed up your recovery because instead of having tendon to tendon heal to itself, you have an interface between the tendon and the bone at the insertion site," Chien said. "And typically, tendons heal better against bone. So, ideally, it may increase the rate of recovery and the speed of recovery after an Achilles tendon rupture, but there’s limited data and research showing that it absolutely speeds things up."

Many people were blown away by the footage of Rodgers throwing at MetLife Stadium and putting weight on his left foot nearly five weeks after surgery. However, according to Chien, weight-bearing activities can be seen relatively soon after an Achilles tendon surgery. 

"There’s different considerations, and I think there are also different patient factors, and there’s also a degree of surgeon preference for this," Chien told Fox News Digital. "Typically, and I’ll speak more from my experience, the things to consider when you allow a patient to start putting weight is, one, their wound has to be healing well. So, if the wound isn’t healing well enough, even if typically you might start to let them put some weight at two weeks, if the wound isn’t ready, then it might be extended to four weeks.


"There’s, I think, controversy, discussion and variability in terms of when different surgeons allow their patients to put full weight. Typically, I would say [it] is probably between four [to] six weeks, in that range." 

As far as a return to the field, Chien said it is "possible" that an athlete could return to the field in a four- to five-month timeframe, though the typical patient can take up to a year. 

"I think it’s recognized that in professional sports setting, the rehabilitation and the therapy is much more intense," Chien told Fox News Digital. "It’s like their full-time job. So, I think it’s not just Achilles tendon ruptures but other orthopedic sports injuries in the professional athletes, One, from the physical rehabilitation that goes into from the demands of their profession, I think four to five months can be a reasonable amount of time that they return."

Rodgers’ progress and recent comments have fueled speculation that he could return late in the season if the Jets are in the playoff hunt or heading into the playoffs.

On Tuesday, Rodgers said he was "ahead of schedule" after the procedure.

"There’s just markers. You saw me walk without crutches and throw on the field. Another marker is going to be jogging, and another marker is going to be going through a pregame workout, probably, and getting on the practice field. And all of these are going to take time," Rodgers said on "The Pat McAfee Show."

"Obviously, we’re ahead of schedule," Rodgers continued. "There are a lot of factors to that. There’s the way that I’ve attacked the rehab; there’s obviously the surgery that Dr. ElAttrache did; there’s the rehab that I’ve done and kind of the around-the-clock approach that I’ve had; there’s implementing the diet that I’ve been doing as well; and then just the power of the mind and the power of manifestation of the desires."

"I’m not going to put a timetable on it specifically," he added. "That makes absolutely no sense. Anybody that does doesn’t realize that there’s a lot of things that have to happen to get to that point. It’s going to have to be jogging, and then explosive movements, and then practicing, and then everybody signing off on it. And hopefully we get to have those conversations." 


Rodgers underwent surgery on Sept. 13 and the Jets' final regular-season game is Jan. 7. The NFL’s wild-card playoff round is set to begin on Jan. 13, exactly four months after Rodgers’ surgery to repair his torn Achilles.

While Jets head coach Robert Saleh has refused to rule out Rodgers’ return to the field later in the season, the thought of Rodgers playing this season would still be shocking.

Chien discussed the risks that come with returning too soon from a torn Achilles.

"Besides re-rupture, although having surgery can decrease the risk of re-rupture compared to no surgery, is that if you go back too soon, too quickly, too hard, too fast, there’s a chance that tendon hasn’t healed enough sort of tightly under tension," Chien said. "And then it could be stretched out, in which case the length of the tendon is increased and, therefore, the power of the tendon is less."

Rodgers’ potential return this season will undoubtedly depend on where the Jets are in the standings late in the year.

New York is a surprising 3-3 heading into their bye week after handing the Philadelphia Eagles their first loss of the season in Week 6.

Jets third-year quarterback Zack Wilson has limited the turnovers – he has thrown just one interception in the last three weeks – while the Jets defense has been dominant.

Against the Eagles, New York’s defense forced four turnovers and didn’t allow a single point in the second half.

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