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Examining Travis Kelce’s bone bruise and chances to play vs. Jaguars

Does the All-Pro tight end have a chance to play on Sunday?

NFL: SEP 07 Lions at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While making a strong effort to be ready to play in week 1, the Kansas City Chiefs’ All Pro tight end Travis Kelce ultimately missed the Week 1 21-20 loss to the Detroit Lions. Kelce suffered a bone bruise on the Tuesday practice leading up to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” opener.

The worst-case scenario for Kelce has been avoided, as hyperextension injuries can often result in ligament injuries (such as the ACL or MCL), muscle strain or potential fractures. A fracture or ligament tear would have placed Kelce on injured reserve for the entirety of the season. Reports from the weekend indicate Kelce is on the mend and working hard to return to the offense which missed his veteran presence.

Head coach Andy Reid also had a positive tone in his media availability via Zoom on Monday.

“Trav is getting better. He’s progressing. We’ll see how he does the rest of today and tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.”

With an AFC Divisional Round rematch looming on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, can Kelce be ready to make his 2023 debut?

Explaining a bone bruise after a hyperextension injury

A knee hyperextension injury occurs when the knee is forcibly pushed back beyond neutral, past its normal fully extended position. In Kelce’s case, a bone bruise occurred due to the tibia (shin bone) forcefully gliding upward on the femur (thigh bone). With normal knee joint play when the knee goes into extension, when the leg is fixed on the ground, the femur should glide posteriorly on the tibia. With this abnormal and forceful joint play, a bone bruise occurs.

As with all injuries, there are grades based on the severity of the injury. In the case of a bone bruise, the degree or grade of the contusion is directly related to the force or amount of hyperextension that occurred.

As Fox Sport’s Jay Glazer reported, the Chiefs were initially concerned about a potential tibial plateau fracture. The tibial plateau is the large, flat portion of the tibia at the top of the bone which forms the knee joint with the femur. Much of the weight bearing through the leg occurs through the tibial plateau.

While painful and an injury which takes several weeks to completely recover, Kelce and the Chiefs have to be thankful there is no additional soft tissue damage or a fracture.

NFL: JAN 21 AFC Divisional Playoffs - Jaguars at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The bottom line

There is no doubt that Kelce is the most important weapon that quarterback Patrick Mahomes has at his disposal. He is a future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and potentially the greatest tight end to ever play the game. The Chiefs’ offense clearly struggled and appeared out of sync in his absence against the Lions on Thursday night.

Kelce’s ability to return to the club and the practice field will all be dependent on pain and swelling management, as well as the progress he makes with the athletic training staff in regaining strength and stability for the knee and surrounding musculature. He will need to regain the power in his lower extremities that he is accustomed to displaying throughout his perennial All-Pro career. If the knee swelling stays under control, but Kelce lacks strength or stability of the knee when running or cutting, then he should remain out of the lineup until fully prepared to return.

Kelce has been remarkably durable given the amount of attention he receives from defenders on the field, and the demands of his position. Thursday night was the first game he has missed due to injury since missing the majority of his rookie season in 2013 after a knee surgery. He did miss one game due to COVID protocols in 2021.

The Chiefs will release their first official injury report of the week on Wednesday in preparation for Week 2. Kelce’s participation status in practice this week will shed more light on his status for Week 2 against the Jaguars.

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