Surgeon optimistic Dre Greenlaw could return for 49ers 2024 season opener

There’s hope Dre Greenlaw could be available for San Francisco by Week 1 of the 2024 regular season, even though it’s still too early to be definitive.

The linebacker underwent surgery on his torn Achilles last week, projected to be out of action for the majority of the year.

However, the once 9-12 month injury has seen technological advances in recent years, making it more than likely Greenlaw could recover in six months.

“We can confidently tell patients that at six months, that’s a reasonable amount of time to be back,” Dr. Kenneth Jung, a foot and ankle surgeon who is also a consultant to the Los Angeles Rams, told The SF Chronicle’s Eric Branch.

“Of course, there are no absolutes. It depends a lot on how well he’s rehabbing and how well he gains his strength back.”

Dre Greenlaw had been dealing with achilles tendinitis heading into the 2024 postseason. He missed Week 18 before returning to the starting lineup two weeks later.

But while the issue may have felt good enough to play on, the risk of injury was much more likely. Jung described deterioration of the ligament as the possible cause off the complete tear, but it’s a risk players take in the biggest sporting moments.

“If you have pain in an area and you’re playing through pain, you know there’s a potential risk that something can let go or tear,” Jung said.

“I’m sure they had those conversations. But obviously with playoffs and the Super Bowl, these are career- defining events, and guys are going to be more willing to risk things.”

Jung, a practitioner at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in LA, was involved in the rehabilitation of running back Cam Akers’ achilles in 2021. The offensive player was able to rebound fully in six months, one of the fastest turnarounds for the once year-long injury.

But as the surgeon explains, recovery time is one thing, feeling confident on the repaired tendon is the true indicator of being football ready.

“It’s getting that confidence back, especially with an Achilles,” Jung added.

“In the back of their mind, they remember that pop in their leg. And it’s being able to trust that leg again to push off and explode off it. It requires getting rid of that apprehension, where they know they can just plant their foot in the ground and go.”

Greenlaw underwent surgery mid-February, putting the six-month timeline right around mid-august and training camp. The 49ers won’t rush their budding star back onto the field, but will hope for a sooner than later return for next season.

Dre Greenlaw, 26, recorded 120 combined tackles in 2023. He also added four pass break-ups, four quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks on the season. He is entering the final year of a two-year deal worth $16.4 million.



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