In my post in the early hours of Sunday morning, I mentioned that former Chicago Bears wide receiver Wendell Davis suffered an injury that involved him either tearing both patellar tendons (like current Minnesota Vikings receiver Greg Childs did) or both ACLs, depending on your source. In searching, I found a second occurrence of this that happened more recently.
On October 22, 2006, Cleveland Browns defensive back Gary Baxter suffered exactly the same injury as Childs did in a game against the Denver Broncos, tearing both of his patellar tendons while attempting to break up a pass. Much like Davis, Baxter never saw the field in a regular season NFL game after his injury. He attempted to come back with the Browns in 2007, but wound up being placed on injured reserve (after not being active for any regular season games) and didn't sign with another team after that.
Given that kind of precedent, one would usually think that not only would we not see Greg Childs in 2012, we might not see him at all.
However. . .and this is said with no disrespect towards Wendell Davis or Gary Baxter. . .but Childs will have a weapon in his arsenal that neither of those two gentlemen had access to.
And that would be Certified Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman™.Sugarman has been the head trainer for the Vikings since 2006. During that time, he has done some pretty amazing work with the team's players to get them back onto the football field. None of those works have been more amazing than what he did with linebacker E.J. Henderson in 2009.
Henderson had suffered a broken femur (thigh bone) in December of 2009 against the Arizona Cardinals when he was inadvertently drilled by teammate Husain Abdullah attempting to bring down a ball carrier. Generally, the force it takes to break a femur is equivalent to that of being in a car wreck, but that's exactly what happened to Henderson that night. It was a gruesome injury, to be sure, and when it was determined that Henderson would need a metal rod inserted into his thigh just to make it possible for him to walk again, it seemed as though his return to the NFL was a pipe dream.
But Sugarman and company went to work, setting up a program to get E.J. Henderson on the right track to get back onto the field with his teammates. How well did the program work? Well, for starters, Henderson suffered his injury on December 6, 2009. . .and not only was Henderson on the field for the 2010 regular season opener in September, he actually wound up being back on the field to start the second game of the pre-season in mid-August, barely eight months after breaking his femur.
For another thing, the work made the Vikings' training staff household names in the medical community.
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."
There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about a potential comeback for Greg Childs. After all, it's not every day that a player suffers an injury this devastating. However, for me at least, the fact that he's going to be working with Eric Sugarman and the rest of the Vikings training staff is a reason for optimism. It won't be this season, and it might not even be next season. . .but given what we've seen in the past, if anyone can make a comeback happen for Greg Childs, it's the guy that currently stands to be in charge of it.