Bottom Line: Expect Wentz to be ready for the start of the 2020 season, and perform at a level comparable to 2019. Data suggests moderate level of concern for his long-term durability, though this is likely mildly decreased by his position as quarterback. Minimal concerns exist regarding short-term durability.
2018: Vertebral Stress Fracture (Oct; Dec)
2017: Knee injury (ACL tear, LCL tear, partial tear to IT band, meniscus tear); (Injury - Week 14; Surgery - Dec 13, 2017)
2019: 16/16 (left playoff game early due to concussion)
Return to Play:
Wentz should be fully recovered from his January concussion and ready to play by the start of the 2020 season.
Data indicates that his recent concussion is unlikely to negatively impact level of play upon return, so we expect performance similar to his 2019 regular season. In 2018, Wentz sustained a stress fracture to a vertebra in his back that was treated non-operatively, which is suspicious for a condition called spondylolysis. Studies tell us that is also not likely to impact NFL performance, especially now that he is >1 year removed from the injury. Wentz’s 2017 knee injury - which involved tears of multiple knee ligaments and meniscus (shock-absorber in the knee) - was very severe. Only about half of NFL players return from this injury, and only 20% return to their prior level of performance. Obviously Wentz did return from this injury, and most would characterize his effectiveness level as relatively high. There is no evidence to suggest that this will change in the near future, as reports suggest that his knee is in stable condition.
Unfortunately, having one concussion makes Wentz more likely to sustain another, and each is known to contribute to cumulative damage to the brain. Additionally, a history of vertebral stress fracture has a demonstrated association in the medical literature with decreased career longevity. Wentz’s knee injury is not common enough to have a robust database for comparison, but data from NFL players associates ACL tear (which is less severe than the multi-ligament injury sustained by Wentz) with decreased career length. However, quarterbacks returning from knee injuries may not follow the same trends as players of other positions. Specifically, multiple studies have shown decreased performance levels in NFL players the first year after ACL surgery, but full return to pre-injury level is seen in quarterbacks. On the other hand, working against Wentz is the fact that his knee injury involved tearing of the meniscus, which results in fewer average games played per year and shorter careers in NFL players. Overall, our short-term concern level is low, but the evidence indicates multiple reasons to be moderately concerned about Wentz’s long-term durability levels.
Special thanks to friend and mentor Dr. Neil Bakshi for his critical research on multi-ligament knee injuries in NFL players, and to neurologist Dr. Zachary Roberts for lending his expertise to our concussion analysis.
Image Source: Keith Alison, CC BY-SA 2.0