At a Glance –
Player: Mike Evans
Position: Wide Receiver
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Injury: Hyperextended knee
Projected Recovery Time: 1-6 wks
It’s finally the best time of the year – playoff season! Surprisingly, the NFL made it through to all 17 weeks without cancelling or missing a game despite COVID-19 and the multitude of injuries that plagued the league this year. Playoffs are a particularly stressful time for teams that are lucky to still be playing as injuries can largely determine how far a team goes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently dealing with a big hit to their team this week with the injury to their star wide receiver, Mike Evans, who went down with a knee injury during the Week 16 game against the Falcons. Knee injuries are especially worrying because recovery can be up to a full year, making a return the following week impossible, but MRI imaging found no structural damage in Evans’ knee. Considering the Buccaneers have an important game against the Washington football team January 9th, this news is best-case scenario. Head coach Bruce Arians confirmed that Evans practiced at half-speed on Tuesday, but whether he is ready to play in a high stakes game remains to be seen.
Evans’ physical therapist will have a huge role in Evan’s recovery, whether he is able to return this week or not. Though he sustained no structural damage, Evans still suffered a pretty serious and painful injury. A knee hyperextension injury means that the knee straightened too far, putting stress on critical ligaments such as the ACL, and extreme hyperextension can lead to ligament compromise. Luckily, Evans avoided significant ligament damage but is likely to be experiencing symptoms that will make his return this Saturday difficult. Common symptoms after this type of injury include pain, swelling, restricted motion, and instability, all of which are unlikely to resolve in the next few days. Evans’ PT’s job is to help him manage those symptoms and return to play safely. For managing pain and swelling, ice, elevation and protecting the joint (with bracing, compression, etc.) are pivotal. Instability and restricted motion are a little trickier to amend in such a short amount of time, but a lot of time will be dedicated to working on Evans’ balance and reaction, as well as restoring full motion, during treatment sessions. A knee hyperextension injury may make full knee extension painful, which can lead to difficulty with running as full extension is needed during weight acceptance and pushing off, so if Evans cannot obtain full extension, he may not be able to perform to his full capacity as a wide receiver. Instability is another issue altogether as this symptom predisposes Evans to greater injury due to the inability to avoid knee positions that may compromise structures in the knee. His return so early is a risk, but Evans will work closely with his PT to decrease his risk of re-injury with multiple sessions throughout the week to work on remaining balance and strength deficits, even if the Buccaneers lose during the Wild Card round. Hopefully, Evans will be ready to go on Saturday – his presence on the field will only boost their odds for a win.