Eagles Actually Face Difficult Choice With Kiko Alonso


Things aren’t as simple as they seem for the Philadelphia Eagles

When multiple outlets reported yesterday that Eagles’ linebacker Kiko Alonso had a partially torn ACL in his left knee — an injury that doctors like to refer to as a “sprain” — it seemed that him having what would be season-ending surgery to repair the injury was the only logical option.

From the Eagles’ perspective, as much as losing Alonso for the season would hurt the team, it may seem like the only logical option. As much as there seems to be a growing campaign to call the LeSean McCoy-for-Alonso trade a success or a failure right away, this isn’t the last season Alonso is eligible to play in the league. Alonso is just 25 years-old and has immense talent. Being proactive and getting this fixed rather than waiting for it to completely tear probably makes the most sense for the organization. 

More from Section 215

For Alonso, the decision between going under the knife again immediately is more complicated than it seems.

In terms of long-term physical health, Alonso should have the surgery as soon as possible, rehab and hope that he’s ready to go next summer.

However, the one thing that we forget is that when athletes have these surgeries, their lives don’t just stop for however long the rehab period for their injury is. They don’t get to hit pause on their lives and just fast forward eight (at least) months until they feel better and can resume their careers.

Sure, at first when an athlete suffers an injury like this fans and teammates rally around them. But no one except the athlete himself has to deal with being four months into an injury and being mentally shattered because you aren’t sure if what the doctors are saying will turn out to be true or if your injury is progressing correctly. Perhaps the worst thing an athlete could think at that point is that they are progressing well, but it could all go down the drain once they step back on the field again and re-expose themselves to the high-risk of being injured.

The point is, there’s an entire mental aspect to suffering an extended injury like this and trying to will yourself through rehab that most people don’t see.

Alonso is 25 years-old, was a star for one of the biggest college programs in the country, and between 2013 and 2016 is guaranteed nearly $2.5 million. I understand that there are worse fates than being a professional athlete and having your career derailed by injuries. But I say speaking from experience, when you are an athlete that believes you should have an entire career in front of you and can be great if you can stay healthy, that’s all you think of.

The reason that this specific situation is so difficult is because this isn’t Alonso’s first time being injured. He tore his left ACL in the off-season between 2013 and 2014 and probably only felt like he just was starting to get back into a normal rhythm. Earlier in that off-season, Alonso had a hip procedure. In 2010, while at Oregon, Alonso tore his right ACL and missed an entire season.

Beyond just simply fearing missing this season, there has to be a part of Alonso that fears for his long-term health. There has to be a part of Alonso that thinks that a few weeks ago he was being touted as one of the most talented players on a team that was expected to contend and now he has no idea if his body is going to allow him to still be in the league when he’s 28 or 29 years-old, let alone have the long career he likely planned on.

One reality that many fans tried to avoid discussing this past off-season was the possibility that Alonso’s continued history of injuries may prevent him from ever fully reaching his potential. If that happens, it will be extremely unfortunate for fans and the team, but life will go on. The Eagles organization won’t cease to exist because of Alonso’s unfortunate injury history and unless Andy Reid comes back to Philadelphia, the organization will probably be able to find another talented inside linebacker (probably not as talented as Alonso, but still) in the next few seasons.

For Alonso, life goes on. He has plenty of money, is a good-looking guy and millions would kill to trade athletic careers with him. But he’s a football player. That’s what he’s done his entire life and after an off-season of people telling him that he’s going to come back and build on a tremendous rookie season, the idea that his career has reached a cross-roads must be horrifying to him.

Aug 22, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso watches from the sideline in a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles won 40-17. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I would imagine most doctors would advise Alonso to have surgery on his knee and miss another season and restart the rehab process. I have no idea if he should go that route or attempt to rehab the injury for the next few weeks and play on it while crossing his fingers that it doesn’t tear completely.

While Alonso has to consider this decision, there’s going to be a part of him that knows that sooner or later he will probably have to get the knee operated on again. If he does it now, though it doesn’t guarantee that he won’t re-injure it again, he’s not going to be playing with a ticking-time bomb for a left knee. But it means that he would almost immediately have to turn right around and rehab a torn ACL for the third time in a six-year period. That can mentally destroy someone.

If Alonso was able to play for even a year or two before needing to have surgery, I’m not sure it can be understated the positive effect that could have on his psyche. There’s obviously some risk in continuing to play on the knee, but one could argue that the negative mental effect (both on and off the field) that going through another recovery could have on Alonso provides a good deal of risk as well.

It’s difficult to speculate on injuries, and frankly not something I enjoy doing, but if Alonso could play for the rest of this season or even for this season and next year before needing the surgery, then that breaks up the rehab processes. Assuming he can successfully rehab the knee enough to be able to play, doing so for a while would at least allow him to remember what all the rehab has been for and that it’s worth it. Oft-injured athletes sometimes need to be reminded of that.

If Alonso and the Eagles elect to go the route of season-ending surgery, it’s extremely vital that Alonso is surrounded with a support group that helps to push him through what’s bound to be a depressing process. That’s going to be crucial in helping Alonso to stay focused during recovery and to allowing him to return to the field comfortably ever again.

Next: What Offseason Move Will Chip Kelly Regret the Most?