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Explaining Travis Kelce’s hyperextension and next steps

Analyzing what a knee hyperextension injury entails and Kelce’s potential return to the field.

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Preparation for the opening night of the 2023 season just got a lot tougher for the Kansas City Chiefs. First-team All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce was injured during practice, with head coach Andy Reid telling the media he hyperextended his knee.

The Chiefs did not provide further details regarding the extent of the injury. His status is uncertain for the Thursday night opener versus the Detroit Lions.

There was initially positive news from the Chiefs regarding the injury.

Hyperextension explained

Hyperextension injuries occur when the knee is forced back beyond neutral, past its normal fully extended position.

The obvious and most immediate concern with a knee hyperextension injury is potential damage to ligaments. The most commonly injured ligaments with hyperextension injuries are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). The ACL is attached at the front of the knee, preventing any anterior translation of the tibia (shin) on the femur (thigh). The MCL is attached to the inside of the knee joint and is the primary stabilizer on the medial side of the knee.

According to wide receiver Skyy Moore, Kelce was able to limp off the field under his own power immediately following the injury.

“I was talking to somebody and he was limping, just walking off the field,” said Moore, per friend-of-the-site Nate Taylor of The Athletic. “It was a good sign to see him get up by himself and get off the field.”

This, along with the initial word from the Chiefs, is good news for the long term and should rule out any fear of a complete ligamentous tear. While the worst-case scenario has likely been avoided, it is possible that Kelce suffered a ligament sprain or muscle sprain as a result of the injury. Meniscus involvement could be possible, but without further details on the exact mechanism of injury (i.e. twisting mechanism of injury), it is impossible to know at this point.

Unknown timetable

Initial goals for Kelce and the athletic training staff will be to decrease swelling and reduce pain in the knee. Until the swelling goes down, we won’t get a clear picture of how soon Kelce can return to the field for the Chiefs.

Once the swelling is reduced, goals will include restoring and maintaining full knee range of motion, strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee joint (specifically the quadriceps and working up the kinetic chain to the hips) — and working on stabilizing the joint to prepare for a return to the field.

As it currently stands, there just isn’t enough information to know the exact timeline for Kelce to return. The next 24 hours and how Kelce’s knee injury responds to initial treatments will shed much more light on his availability for Thursday night.

However, a typical knee hyperextension injury is usually a two-to-four-week recovery in low to moderate-grade injuries.

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