NFL Injuries: What Is a Torn Achilles? Potential Timetable for Return, Notable Players, and More

J.K. Dobbins received the dreaded "Achilles tear" diagnosis. This injury is among the most difficult to recover from. Here's a look at the basics.

The Achilles tear is one of the scarier in sports these days. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and it stretches from your heel to your calf muscle. It plays a significant role in the ability to rise on your tippy toes and thus your ability to run/jump.

Achilles Tear: Projected Timeline To Recover

It has been estimated that 30-40% of NFL players to suffer an Achilles tear never return to the professional level of competition. That said, modern medicine is always developing. The average length of recovery is in the 10-12 month range, though we did see Cam Akers make it back in just six short months back in 2021.

It is worth noting, however, that Akers returned for a Super Bowl run and wasn’t explosive (72 carries for 175 yards, with none of those carries gaining more than 15 yards).

Other Notable Achilles Tears

In addition to Akers, there have been a handful of Achilles tears in the NFL over the past few seasons. The most recent example was Tarik Cohen in the 2022 offseason.

James Robinson and Justice Hill both did so in 2021, while Marlon Mack went down in the first week of the 2020 season. Those last three examples all made it back to the field, with their average absence extending just past 47 weeks.

Across the sporting universe, Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles late in the 2013 season. He returned to action the next season, but his FG% dropped off a cliff following the injury. Kevin Durant suffered a similar fate in the 2019 NBA Finals and missed the entire 2020 season as a result. Now, the physical nature of football makes it different than hoops, though the point remains: athletes at this level have a chance to recover.

J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles on Sunday, and his recovery could be a bit unique. His youth is certainly a plus, but we are also talking about a player who had more missed games than played games through three professional seasons. The recovery time is directly correlated to age (as one goes up, so does the other), though a history of injuries has a way of also delaying a return to action.

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