We can debate until we're blue in the face whether the Philadelphia Eagles or the St. Louis Rams got the better of the Nick Foles-Sam Bradford trade.
In fact, any number of media pundits and talking heads are, as we speak, no doubt lying slumped over their keyboards, positively spent by their tireless need to declare a winner or put a letter grade on a trade that's less than a week old.
While the real results of the deal won't be known for months - and really, years, considering the time it takes for players to assimilate to new schemes and new teammates as well as the pending use of all of the oddly structured draft pick compensation involved - what is known is that for Philly, head coach Chip Kelly traded a steady, if athletically-limited winner in Foles for one of the formerly most talented and also most injury-prone quarterbacks in the NFL.
Kelly, the man who brought "sports science" to the NFL, is apparently so confident in his new-age methods for keeping players healthy that he believes he can take injury-prone guys from other teams - Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Walter Thurmond - and help them via an increased focus on nutrition, altered training regimens, monitoring sleeping habits and yes, the milkshakes, to stay healthy as Philadelphia Eagles.
For a player like Bradford, who has now torn the ACL in his left knee twice, a high-risk factor for re-injury is presumably involved with his return to the field, but it may not be as unlikely for him to return to his Offensive Rookie of the Year form as previously assumed.
"A study published in Arthroscopy in 2005 found that 12% of patients re-injure their same knee or injure their other knee in the first five years following surgery," writes Justin Shaginaw, head athletic trainer for the US Soccer Federation. "Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine 2006 found that soccer players with a previous ACL reconstruction had at least four times the risk of re-injury or injuring their other knee. Numerous research articles show continued deficits in strength and lower extremity control that can persist for years following ACL reconstruction. If you've followed ACL injuries in professional athletes, not everyone recovers as quickly as Adrian Peterson. Many end up like Derrick Rose and RG III."
Shaginaw reports that, statistically speaking, Bradford "is at high risk for re-injury," despite the fact that both of his ACL tears came as a result of contact mechanisms. Non-contact ACL injury mechanisms, per Shaginaw, could point to a pre-disposition.
Per Shaginaw, an article published in Orthopedics 2014 by Erickson, titled "Performance and Return-to-Sport After ACL Reconstruction in NFL Quarterbacks," looked closely at 13 NFL quarterbacks' performance after their return from ACL reconstruction.
"They concluded that there is a high rate of return to sport in the NFL for quarterbacks and that performance was not significantly different from pre-injury," Shaginaw writes.
It seems a predictive factor in a healthy return from ACL injury is where a player was selected in the draft - being selected in the first four rounds meant a high probability of return to previous playing levels - which makes sense considering players with greater levels of athleticism and overall ability, along with a particular mental makeup, tend to be taken higher.
In the end, per Shaginaw, while there remains a likelihood of re-injury for Bradford and any patient following ACL reconstruction, quarterbacks, specifically ones taken high in the draft like Bradford, the former first-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, tend to return to the field and, more importantly, perform well.
"NFL players in general show about a 63% return to play after ACL reconstruction. However, quarterbacks showed not only a high rate of return to play but a return to previous levels of performance."