Recovery for Chargers’ J.C. Jackson could be long and difficult

Chargers cornerback JC Jackson has faced sticky situations before, including criminal charges that cost him a scholarship in Florida and a 2018 non-call-up from Maryland.

He is now facing tougher times as he attempts to bounce back from a torn patellar tendon he sustained against Seattle on Sunday.

“This is a serious injury for his position,” said Timothy Gibson, an orthopedic surgeon at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center. “It really is. It’s going to take a lot of work.”

Jackson was injured late in the first half while defending a pass near the Chargers’ goal line. He fell to the grass of SoFi Stadium and immediately grabbed his right knee while grimacing in pain.

On Monday afternoon, coach Brandon Staley announced the diagnoses that stacked the odds against Jackson’s return to the Pro Bowl form he showed at New England in 2021.

A study published in June 2016 by the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that only 50% of players returned after surgery for torn patellar tendons.

Of those who made it back, most saw their careers cut short and their previous levels of achievement unmatched.

“On the spectrum of these types of injuries, it’s on the not-so-great side,” said Gibson, who spoke generally and does not treat Jackson. “It will be played again and then it will be played again at the same level.”

Though recovery times can vary based on severity, Gibson said a “full return” typically takes six months to a year for a professional athlete.

NFL players who tore a patellar tendon and never regained their form include wide receiver Victor Cruz and linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Chargers cornerback JC Jackson is writhing in pain after injuring his knee late in the game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Chargers cornerback JC Jackson squirms in pain after injuring his knee late in the game against the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Tight end Jimmy Graham made it back to be a Pro Bowl player again and cornerback Morris Claiborne returned to be a starter.

The immediate problems Jackson faces are surgeries and rehabilitation, the timing of which, Gibson explained, is significant. The sooner Jackson has surgery and the more severe the treatment, the sooner he can begin rehab.

This is critical, Gibson said, to try to limit the extent of atrophy to the quadriceps muscle, where a player like Jackson gains his strength and explosiveness.

“They try to fix it early, certainly within the first week if not the first few days,” Gibson said. “You want to let it heal early so you can rehabilitate it early. The other key is to fix it firmly.”

In March, the Chargers signed Jackson to a five-year deal that guarantees him $40 million and is valued at up to $82.5 million. There is no guaranteed salary after the 2023 season.

Despite the daunting odds Jackson faces, Gibson said it was too early to count him out.

“I’ve learned never to doubt a professional athlete because they’re just different,” he said. “Their mindset, their ability to deal with that and focus on rehab is just different than the rest of us.” Recovery for Chargers’ J.C. Jackson could be long and difficult

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