Over the last few weeks, the beginning of the Packers offseason programs – normally an exciting time for fans – has been marred by worry. Star LT David Bakhtiari is still absent from practice. Apparently, he continues to deal with his recovery from the ACL tear he sustained in December 2020. Naturally, this delay is concerning to many. After the injury left him unable to play in 2021, fans hoped that he would be back for 2022.
Matters haven’t been helped by Matt LaFleur’s messaging in recent press conferences. In his most recent update, LaFleur commented “He’s been working really hard. Hopefully, training camp, he’s full go, good to go. But I know he’s been working hard and itching to get back out there.” Some viewed LaFleur’s tone and wording as indicative of dubious progress in Bakhtiari’s recovery. While that is up to interpretation, concern about Bakhtiari’s knee seems reasonable at this point.
Of course, the human body is incredibly complex. It can be hard or impossible for a layperson to truly judge how recovery from an injury should look. That is especially true with offensive linemen, who need to maintain significant weight while also also handling a wide range of explosive motion. Pass sets, one of the core aspects of offensive line play, are in themselves highly unnatural movements.
Like many fans and writers, I have extremely limited experience in the field of injury recovery. That’s why I turned to Aimee, a fellow Packers fan and physical therapy worker, for more information. Besides her invaluable insight, Aimee is just a generally awesome follow; you can find her at @boboddyz on Twitter.
Who is Aimee?
When I asked her for a recap of her medical background, Aimee provided some highly impressive qualifications. She has worked as a physical therapy assistant for the last three years, handling outpatient work “with an emphasis in pre/post operative care, joint replacement, sports rehabilitation, and neurological based injuries/deficits.” She noted her experience with “a multitude of patients and athletes ranging from ages 3-102 with different diagnoses like ACL tears, rotator cuff tears, spinal cord fractures, to more complicated cases like TBI’s, ALS, CP, Parkinson’s, amputee’s .. etc.” So, Aimee has amassed experience with recovery from a diverse set of injuries and situations, including “sports rehabilitation” and “ACL tears.” Obviously, these are highly relevant to Bakhtiari’s injury. She seems like the perfect person to break down whether or not we need to be concerned about the left tackle’s status.
What is the Nature of the Injury?
Next, I asked Aimee how she would describe the nature of the injury. She explained:
“The nature of Bakh’s injury was ACL tear, then meniscus. He confirmed himself in an article that they took out approx. 10-15% of his meniscus. Usually that indicates it was partially/fully torn, but this sounds like it was partially torn since they were able to salvage a majority of the meniscus. There is also a question of whether or not he potentially had some damage to the MCL as well, which would complete the trifecta of what we call the terrible triad: ACL, medial meniscus, and MCL. So it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had some issues with his MCL given his size and the MOI (mechanism of injury).”
Aimee later clarified that to her knowledge, neither the Packers, Green Bay beat reporters, nor Bakhtiari himself have confirmed or denied an MCL injury in addition to the ACL and meniscus injuries, but “it wouldn’t surprise [her] if there was a terrible triad due to those two components usually happening in 3’s.”
Aimee continued. “ACL’s have the ability to take up to a year to heal and then throw in a medial meniscus trying to heal and you add another component to the overall healing timeline[, s]ince the meniscus and ACL have different functions in the actual joint. The meniscus acts as more if a shock absorber and the ACL acts as more of support for the entire knee while doing all the twisting and turning motions you need during your activities.”
“Bahk also noted himself he WORKED hard to get back and had to have his knee drained 15 times due to excessive inflammation. Inflammation is part of the healing process but too much inflammation obviously leads to set backs: pain, decreased ROM [range of motion], etc. We then find out he need[ed] the arthroscope to clean out scar tissue and drain even more fluid. It’s [not] uncommon for ACL patients to have to that scope so they can get that last bit of ROM and strength.”
“We know Bahk has to be able to get down low, be explosive on the way up, and hold his own as men his size or larger try to get past him. So there’s strength, reaction, vertical/lateral movement, and a trust factor within himself that all have to done with 100% confidence for this to work. The physical battle is aggressive but the mental battle is just as, if not more aggressive.”
“Which leads me to another point that Bakh mentioned himself: he needs to just shut down the engine and let his body heal. Trying to put in all this hard work when your knee isn’t fully ready to handle it only delaying his start to consistently getting back in the field full time. And for him to make that realization is fantastic! Let the body heal. It knows what needs to happen.”
So, Aimee believes that Bakhtiari’s long recovery is not a catastrophic development. In her opinion, it is expected given the extent of the injury and the inflammation he experienced.
What About the Lions Game?
I also asked her about another aspect of his recovery. In the last regular season game of 2021, Bakhtiari saw the field against the Lions, playing 27 offensive snaps before leaving the game. Some have speculated that this activity caused a setback in Bakhtiari’s recovery. Did Aimee agree?
“At the time I was so excited to see Bakh back for the Lions game, and he looked PHENOMENAL! He himself even said he felt great, he was just exhausted. But that’s the other component of these types of injuries: how does the body respond 12, 24, 48 hours after you go back to 100% game speed reps? And we got our answer, the knee wasn’t ready. Which was not what we wanted to hear. But hey, I’m glad he listened to his body and didn’t risk a re-tear in the 49ers game.”
Thus, Aimee believes that the Lions game was not a real setback. Instead, it was a sign that his recovery was not yet complete. The extent of the injury and the accompanying inflammation simply demanded more time to heal.
Will Bakhtiari Be Ready for the Season?
Of course, I asked the questions on everybody’s minds. Will Bakhtiari be ready for the 2022 season? Does the injury leave any long-term concerns?
Aimee doesn’t believe this injury will prevent Bakhtiari from making it back on the field. “The Packers have a phenomenal medical staff and will continue to take care of our big guy. I think he’ll be ready to go for this upcoming season. We know he is aching to get back on the field with his team.”
As for long-term concerns? He may experience some new physical hurdles, but Aimee didn’t believe they will prevent him from returning. “[H]e won’t ever be the exact same as he was prior to injury. That’s just something that we all have to come to terms with. It’ll probably be sore and achy in the cold/rainy weather but that’s something I’m sure he already knew and will be able to tolerate.”
Overall, this analysis seems like good news considering the consternation that has swept Packers fans since the start of offseason programs. Aimee believes that, while some aspects of how his body responds to outside conditions may change, Bakhtiari will indeed play for the Packers again, and should be ready by the early part of the season. Obviously, only the Green Bay medical staff know the true nature of Bakhtiari’s injury and recovery process. However, Aimee has a great deal of experience in fields directly related to the injury in question. Her opinion on the topic is highly valuable.
Bakhtiari may still miss the offseason programs. There’s no guarantee he’ll be available for training camp or the preseason. This is obviously less than ideal; he needs all the reps he can get to return to form. However, even if Bakhtiari misses time early on, he should be able to reach the field in time to be ready for the most important stretch of the regular season and the postseason, when the Packers will need him the most.
For More Great Wisconsin Sports Content
Follow me on Twitter at @Sam_DHolman and follow us @WiSportsHeroics for more great content. To read more of our articles and keep up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here! Also, check out our merch store for some amazing WSH merchandise!