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How far along Rashaad Penny is in rehab

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Wednesday marks one month since the Seattle Seahawks saw their season end in a 28-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, and it is also marks 66 days since Rashaad Penny’s 2019 season ended with a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams. On Tuesday Penny tweeted about his recovery, and gave a clue as to how his rehab is progressing.

For those who recall, Penny’s ACL reconstruction took place on the Friday before Christmas, per Adam Schefter.

For those familiar with the rehab timetable following ACL repair, the timing of Penny being cleared to get on the bike gives a glimpse into the undisclosed, “additional damage” his knee sustained during the injury.

Obviously, nothing can be known for certain in the absence of either Penny or the team providing insight into exactly what that “additional damage” entailed, however, we now have multiple data points from which we can begin to attempt to draw conclusions. Those confirmed data points include those dates noted above:

  • Date of injury: December 8, 2019
  • Date of surgery: December 20, 2019
  • First day on bike in rehab: February 11, 2020

That’s seven and a half weeks from surgery to Penny’s first day on the bike, which is far longer than most ACL recovery timeline. According to the recovery and rehab timeline Western Orthopaedics of Denver, CO has online, patients should attempt to use the stationary bike sometime prior to the two week mark post operation, with a recommendation of 15 minutes of stationary bike use per day in weeks two through six post operation. That timeframe is similar to that laid out online by Sports Medicine North of Peabody, MA, the Stone Clinic of San Francisco, CA and OrthoIndy of Brownsburg, IN. Thus, we know that Penny was at seven and a half weeks between surgery and his first day on the bike, which is far greater than is called for in recovery following ACL reconstruction. Does that mean it’s time to panic regarding Penny potentially returning to the field for the 2020 season? Not at all.

When an individual suffers a torn ACL, it is not uncommon for there to be associated damage to the meniscus. According research published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Research in March of 2015, the rate of meniscus tears when suffering a torn ACL is somewhere between 55% and 65%. So, with that in mind, the next step is to look at the recovery timelines for meniscus injuries, and that may yield a solid clue.

According to the online rehab protocol for meniscus repair the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases at the NYU Langone Medical Center has online, the stationary bike should begin to be used sometime between six and twelve weeks after the operation. That is consistent with the timelines that can be found from other online resources, including the Stone Clinic of San Francisco, CA again, the University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine online rehab timeline and several others.

In short, the rehab timeline indicated by Penny’s tweet would not be inconsistent with that which one would expect following meniscus repair, and research literature indicates that the majority of ACL tears have an associated meniscus repair. That combination of facts, while in no way conclusive, obviously tends to lend itself to the idea that the “additional damage” Penny suffered when he tore his ACL may well have been some sort of tear of the meniscus.

That then allows for a better evaluation of what kind of return to form fans may be able to expect to see from Penny in 2020. Specifically, it allows for the sample of running backs to be evaluated to be narrowed down to those who were known to have suffered a torn meniscus or other cartilage damage in addition to a torn ACL. This list includes running backs such as Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings, among others, and is something that the long offseason will provide time to dig into. Again, it’s not something that can be said with certainty, but the probabilities certainly point that way.