One year ago, the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to host the Cincinnati Bengals at the Metrodome. They were coming off of a tough loss on a Sunday night to the Arizona Cardinals, only their second loss of the season, but the topic of conversation was less about what had happened on the scoreboard than it was what had happened to one of their team leaders.
E.J. Henderson was attempting to make a tackle on Cardinals' running back Tim Hightower. His teammate, rookie safety Jamarca Sanford, had much the same idea, and dove at Hightower in an effort to take him to the turf. Sanford collided with Henderson rather than Hightower and he caught Henderson in just the right way to cause a broken femur for E.J.
Now, the femur is the largest and strongest bone in the human body, and it takes an unbelievable amount of pressure to cause it to fracture. But, fracture it did, and Henderson was down on the turf. Over the course of my football-viewing life, I've seen some pretty gruesome injuries. . .Joe Theismann getting crushed by Lawrence Taylor, Daunte Culpepper getting all of the major ligaments in his knee destroyed by Chris Gamble, Charles Gordon getting his ankle turned 180 degrees on a punt return against Green Bay. . .but the injury that E.J. Henderson suffered that night might be the nastiest one I've ever witnessed.
Nobody was quite sure how long it was going to take Henderson to come back. After all, this injury was the type of thing you see after a car wreck, not a football game. When he left the hospital in Arizona a few days later, E.J. Henderson had a titanium rod in his leg where his femur used to be and no idea when. . .or if. . .he was going to get back on the football field again. But the Vikings' training staff, led by head trainer Eric Sugarman, put together a rehab program that was, obviously, incredibly successful. How successful? Well, according to NFL.com. . .
The Vikings' medical and training staff have presented Henderson's groundbreaking case, and the rehab program, both locally and nationally. It has been written up in medical journals and is being studied for future reference, providing a road map for how to deal with such an injury.
And they've given it a nickname -- the Henderson Protocol.
"That's our joke, but I think that's what it is," Sugarman said. "I challenge anyone to top it. I think the medical staff in general, we're pretty proud of this. It's a remarkable comeback."
It certainly is. Henderson is not only back, but he's second on the Vikings in tackles with 80, and no linebacker in the league has more interceptions than the three that Henderson has snagged this season. As far as I'm concerned, they could have engraved his name on the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year trophy the second he set foot on the field in New Orleans. E.J. Henderson is doing something that no player has ever done before after suffering an injury that many expected to force him to lose not only this season, but possibly games and seasons beyond this season as well.
Very few players in Viking history. . .or in NFL history. . .have ever had to power through what E.J. Henderson has had to power through. To watch him play this season, you'd never believe that it had already been a year since the injury took place. Congratulations to him, and to the Vikings' coaching staff, on accomplishing what they've accomplished this season.