Jimmy Garoppolo: Timetable for 49ers quarterback’s return post ACL tear

Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending ACL tear in Week 3, prompting questions when he’ll be back on the field and how his recovery will look. Let’s look at a timetable.

The San Francisco 49ers suffered the biggest of all blows during their Week 3 38-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. And it wasn’t the outcome of the game.

No, instead quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL while running down the sidelines close to the boundary line late in the fourth quarter. He struggled to get up after being hit, subsequently heading over to the Niners’ blue medical tent. Afterwards, he was seen being carted off the field.

Shortly after the game’s conclusion, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported San Francisco feared a serious knee injury, and head coach Kyle Shanahan later confirmed the team was worried it was the ACL.

Former Niner Noise site expert Douglas Totten, who currently is studying at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, explained just how quickly the 49ers medical staff was able to determine it was a likely ACL tear for Garoppolo:

"If the 49ers docs think he has a torn ACL there’s almost zero chance it is anything else. The test is pretty accurate and precise for that.The ACL attaches from the back of your femur to the front of your tibia, or main lower leg bone. Hence if you are, for example, laying down with your knee at a 90-degree angle and the trainer can pull your lower leg forward (i.e. away from you and toward the trainer) significantly farther than is normal, it is almost certain that you have an ACL tear, especially when the test is done by a physician as well trained as anyone on the 49ers medical staff. This is called an “anterior drawer test.”A somewhat better test is the “Lachman test,” which is essentially the same thing but instead of 90 degrees the knee angle is about 20-30 degrees. I’m certain the 49ers training staff has done these tests. While I’m hoping beyond hope that this is only a sprain or partial tear or something weird is happening, I’d be exceedingly surprised if Jimmy Garoppolo is not on IR in the next two days."

To get an idea how how the Lachman test works, check out the video below:

This explains why the 49ers were exceptionally concerned about a possible ACL tear merely minutes after the injury and long before Monday’s MRI on Garoppolo’s knee that confirmed it.

The good news, however, is Garoppolo suffered this injury early in the season. It means his pending surgery and subsequent recovery can take the rest of 2018, making Garoppolo likely ready to go by the start of 2019 training camp.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, who suffered an ACL tear in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams last year, didn’t have that luxury and has only been recently cleared for on-field play.

ACL surgeries are relatively simple and non-invasive. According to the Mayo Clinic, it involves an outpatient procedure utilizing another part of the knee ligament from either the patient or a cadaver and is done via small incisions around the knee itself.

As far as the recovery period, here’s what the Mayo Clinic had to say:

"Successful ACL reconstruction paired with rigorous rehabilitation can usually restore the stability and function to your knee. Within the first few weeks after surgery, you should strive to regain knee range of motion equal to that of your opposite knee. Athletes often can return to their sports after eight to 12 months."

Garoppolo being on the younger side of 30 years old should aid in this process. And the 12-month maximum recovery projected is generally reserved for worst-case scenarios, which doesn’t appear to be the case for the 49ers’ franchise quarterback.

So, if you’re looking at eight months, one can assume Garoppolo is back on the field performing duties around late May 2019.

Next. 3 positives from Jimmy Garoppolo's season-ending ACL injury. dark

Big thanks to Doug Totten for the information on Jimmy Garoppolo.