Merriman Faces Several Surgery Options

Updated: October 26, 2011

In case you haven’t already heard, the Bills put Merriman on IR this afternoon. The former pro bowl linebacker is ending his season prematurely after the Achilles Tendonitis that had been slowing Merriman all season had reached a point where he was in danger of rupturing the tendon. As such, he opted to avoid a potentially catastrophic injury by electing for preventive surgery to repair the damage.

Quickly, we are going to run down the two options of what this surgery might entail.

Achilles/Calf Enlongation Since the Achilles tendon connects the calf and the heel, one technique is to stretch the calf. This thereby decreases the tension on the tendon, which theoretically will help the Achilles tendon feel normal. This is accomplished by either cutting the Achilles tendon in various points, or cutting the calf muscle so that a portion of it drops down and decreases the distance between the calf and the heel. This procedure is less likely as it requires some estimation as to the correct tension and does not repair the actual tear itself.

Debridement The other option is to essentially remove the damaged portion of the Achilles Tendon and stitch the remaining portion back together or sew in a donor piece of tendon. Explained nicely here, this option will likely result in Merriman being off the foot in a boot for 3-8 weeks, and than rehab necessary after.

The specifics of the procedure aren’t really as interesting as rehab time. Basically, that is largely dependent on how well the surgery is performed and how Merriman’s body heals. Merriman will have access to the best doctors, and the procedure’s aren’t entirely complex, so that’s a good sign. However, how well Merriman’s achilles heals will be anyone’s guess. One thing is certain: the recovery is far easier than if Merriman were to have waited for the tendon to rupture.

That’s not to say there isn’t precedent we can look to. As Chris Brown outlined, both Takeo Spikes and Julian Peterson were two OLB’s who had similar surgery performed. The injury was long thought to be the reason for Spike’s seeming downturn and production by Bills fans, and likely was a contributing factor. However, Spikes was able to stick around long enough to excel for the 49ers and now Chargers.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this Achilles issue is separate from the previous injuries that Merriman has experienced in his career to his knee and calf. While it’s certainly not encouraging to see another body part have issues, it is better than a re injuring a past body part, or rupturing anything.