The announcement that Ryan Tannehill would likely wear a knee brace in 2017 induced panic among the Dolphins’ faithful, but he’s back in action and wants to make certain that onlookers understand his knee brace is merely a protective measure.
“The brace doesn’t really do anything for stability,” Tannehill said. “It’s more just protection and getting used to it, getting comfortable. I am going to be wearing it during the season, so I just want to wear it now so that I’m comfortable throughout the year and it’s just second nature at that point.”
When Tom Brady was lost for the 2008 season after taking a hit to his left knee, the NFL implemented a rule to protect quarterbacks from sustaining knee injuries to their “tracking leg” (a quarterback’s front leg used to aim in the direction of their intended target). In 2009, the league mandated that no defensive player may run unabated to the quarterback and hit him flagrantly in the area of the knee or below.
Despite the rules changes since Brady’s injury, the NFL has seen an increase of quarterbacks who wear a knee brace on their tracking leg.
In 2012, then Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano required all of his quarterbacks to wear braces on their left knee.
“It is something we require,” Schiano said. “That’s the position where I think quarterbacks are the most vulnerable. That front leg, since all our quarterbacks are righties, their left leg is braced. Because when you’re throwing the ball and then you follow through and that leg is standing there, people roll into you. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it gives you a little better chance.”
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck are also among the growing number of NFL quarterbacks who have never sustained major knee injuries but wear a knee brace as a precautionary measure.
Unlike the aforementioned quarterbacks, Tannehill did sustain a partially torn ACL last season, but he insists he’s healthy.
“I’m back in 100 percent and feel totally normal,” Tannehill said. “There’s really no more checkpoints that I have to hit at this point. It’s, ‘Everything looks good and go play.”
The ACL typically doesn’t heal itself due to a lack of blood flow to the anterior portion of the knee. Instead of opting for offseason surgery, Tannehill elected to undergo stem cell treatment in the knee which has promoted healing.
“Your blood stream is carrying stem cells to any injury you have all over your body. The ACL typically doesn’t heal because of a lack of blood flow. So they’re just artificially becoming the blood stream to carry the stem cells to the location.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase says Tannehill has no restrictions with his left knee, but according to defensive end Andre Branch, Gase admonished Dolphins defenders that have gotten too close to Tannehill during OTAs.
“We didn’t pay that much attention to him [Adam Gase] when he said it, and then yesterday we kind of got too close,” Branch said. “So we won’t be getting close any more.
“We touched him a little bit. But it won’t happen again. …It was pass rush day. So we start rushing and we felt good and then we kind of got too close to the quarterback. But that’s our quarterback so we can’t get close.”