How Will Lamar Jackson’s PCL Injury Affect Baltimore’s Playoff Run?

Lamar Jackson's PCL Injury

Another week and another costly injury to a high-profile quarterback. Lamar Jackson is this week’s victim after suffering a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) sprain to his left knee during the first quarter of his Week 13 tilt against the Broncos. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh initially termed the injury as “week-to-week,” and the latest reports speculate Jackson may need one-to-three weeks to recover.

There have been recent notable players suffering from a PCL sprain, including Ezekiel Elliott and Dalton Shultz of the Cowboys along with Buccaneers receiver Julio Jones. Most recently, Bengals reserve running back Chris Evans suffered a PCL sprain. Each of their outcomes can be seen in the table below.

Player Date Injured Days Missed Games Missed
Ezekiel Elliott 11/21/2021 4 0
Julio Jones 9/11/2022 21 2
Dalton Schultz 9/18/2022 14 1
Dalton Schultz 10/9/2022 7 1
Chris Evans 11/6/2022 7 1

For clarity, days missed are the number of days a player was absent from practice participation.

As you can see from the table, the length of absence and games missed is not significant with this injury. For instance, Evans was injured before the Bengals bye week and returned to practice at a limited capacity the following week to garner a questionable tag and eventually be inactive for one game. Technically, Evans had 21 days in between the date of his injury and his return to the field, but he was able to practice within a week.

The longest absence from this list is Jones. His return was limited to just 18 snaps. Obviously, he was not 100% upon his return and missed an additional three games to tend to his injured knee. Since his return to the lineup, he has played > 50% of the snaps in all but one of his five games.

This brings us to the Cowboys players, and let’s focus on Schultz first since his second injury listed on the table was an aggravation of the first. Although Schultz injured his PCL twice, he missed only one game due to each injury and returned to practice in half the time after his second injury.

In Elliott’s case, he returned within the shortest timeframe and is the only player on this list to not miss a game. Did his play suffer due to his quick return? The numbers suggest that his play was affected, as his average rushing attempts per game dropped from 16 before his injury to 12 after. In addition to his reduced workload, his efficiency on those runs decreased as well, going from an average of 4.5 yards per attempt before his injury to 3.4 after.

Each of these players and their injuries demonstrates variability. This is often the case as each individual is dealing with a different degree of severity in addition to their own intrinsic healing factors such as age and their injury history along with extrinsic factors like the player’s role and their team’s medical staff.

The mechanism of injury to the PCL is not a common occurrence in football as it is very specific to how it gets injured. Watch Jackson’s injury and compare it to Elliots’ injury against the Chiefs, Schultz’s injury against the Bengals, and Jones’ injury against the Cowboys. That is how it is commonly injured when the ligament is in a position to be compromised during its function.

This leads us into Jackson’s outlook. Jackson’s estimated time of return falls in line with the examples shared earlier. Saying that, a minimum of a one game absence should be expected but a return by the following week is possible.

Could he return to his previous level of performance his first game back? That is hard to say, but he stands a better chance to return without lingering effects if he takes more time to fully heal.

James Rodriguez PT, DPT contributed to this report. 

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