Bottom line: Expect Kinlaw to be ready to play at the start of team activities. He was battling tendinitis of his knee, which should benefit from time off and focused muscle re-training, so we expect a full return to his prior level of performance. However, his durability does present question marks, as there are some non-modifiable factors that can contribute to tendinitis and it therefore could recur. Additionally, his hip likely has some wear and tear related to playing through a prior labrum (protective structure in the hip joint) injury, although data suggests that the surgery he underwent is not likely to affect his performance or durability. Overall, concern level is moderate.
2018: Torn labrum (hip), treated with surgery
2020: Tendinitis (knee)
Return to Play:
Although Kinlaw missed the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine due to his knee issue, he was reportedly on track to work out at his Pro Day (prior to the coronavirus pandemic). We therefore expect him to be ready to play at the start of team activities.
Knee tendinitis should significantly improve given time to rest and re-train his muscles. Although there is not much data on NFL players with this condition, we expect a full return to his prior level of play. Additionally, he will be entering season 2 following his hip surgery to repair his labrum. Data from 3 studies indicates that this is unlikely to negatively impact his performance as well.
There are question marks here. We know that he played through the hip labrum injury for “a long time”, which suggests that he may have an increased long-term risk of arthritis from potential resulting damage to the cartilage that lines and protects the bones in the joint. On the other hand, working in his favor is data from 3 studies that found no difference in annual game participation or career lengths of players who underwent similar surgeries. Regarding his knee tendinitis, he has likely addressed the modifiable factors that led to this condition by now, but biomechanical studies tell us that there are some variables that are simply out of his control that can also contribute. Reports suggest that his case was mild enough to have recovered by the time of his previously schedule Pro Day, and there are not indications that this has been a chronic issue for him so far. His knee issue has been compared to that of Myles Jack - which caused Jack to drop to the 2nd round of the draft despite being considered a 1st round talent - but we don’t feel that this comparison is appropriate. Jack’s issue was related to a cartilage lesion inside the joint, which medical evidence indicates leads to lower performance and game participation in the NFL. Kinlaw’s issue is with a tendon that is outside of the joint, and we do not have clear evidence of its impact on NFL performance. However, it can’t be eliminated as something that won’t affect him again down the road because of the anatomical factors that may have contributed to its development this time, and it therefore has the potential to nag him down the road. Overall, concern level is moderate.
Image Source: Chris Gillespie, Wikimedia Commons