A Breakdown of Adrian Peterson’s Latest Injury

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Vikings fans watched in horror last week as Adrian Peterson was assisted off the field in the Vikings’ first home game at US Bank Stadium against the Green Bay Packers. Although Peterson hadn’t made a significant impact for the Vikings’ running game so far this season, it was still a disappointment to see the Vikings’ star helped off the field during the second half of the game. It was later determined that Adrian Peterson had torn his meniscus. The meniscus acts as a cushion within the knee joint. A person injures their meniscus usually through a twisting motion of the knee combined with a compressive force. This is exactly what happened to Peterson. He slightly twisted his knee while his right foot was briefly stuck under the leg of a Green Bay Packers player while Peterson was being tackled. Following his injury, it appeared Peterson was unable to straighten his leg and bear weight on it. This may be because with the specific type of tear he suffered (referred to as a bucket handle tear) a loose piece of cartilage can become caught within the joint causing a temporary locking of the knee. The meniscus receives only a small amount of blood supply which is needed for healing. Therefore, surgery is commonly needed. Adrian Peterson underwent a meniscus repair on Thursday, September 22. This is an arthroscopic procedure that attempts to preserve as much of the meniscus as possible. Since a lot of power was involved in Peterson’s injury, this commonly results in a cleaner tear of the meniscus which would improve the surgical prognosis. Success of a meniscus repair also depends on the age and physical condition of the patient, which bodes well for Peterson.

Here’s a glimpse into what Peterson’s physical therapy program may look like:

  • The first goal of rehab is to focus on quadriceps muscle activation. This is achieved through exercises such as quad sets and straight leg raises. Peterson will likely initially have to wear a brace and should be able to put as much weight\ on his knee as he’s able to tolerate.
  • Aquatic therapy may be utilized to gradually apply increased load to the knee joint with walking, progress to running, and progress to aggressive strengthening more quickly by using weighted devices and tubing for resistance.
  • Peterson will have to avoid deep knee bending and rotation of his knee joint for several weeks to allow for proper healing to occur.
  • His strengthening will progress to exercises such as leg press, squats, stationary bike and stair training.
  • Finally, single leg exercises, balance, jumping, and agility exercises will be introduced. Before athletes return to sport, they typically undergo functional testing. A common bench mark is that the testing results need to show that the surgical leg is functionally within 85% of the non-surgical leg before returning to sport.
The big question from Vikings fans is if there’s any hope Peterson will be able to return this season. The recovery time following a meniscal repair is at minimum 3-4 months up to 6 months. However, looking at how quickly Peterson was able to recover from his ACL repair, I would predict he’ll return to the football field around 12 weeks after his surgery. Therefore, I believe there is a chance he’ll be playing for the Vikings at the end of the season and into a potential post-season. – Kim R.