FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Pitts most likely suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain Sunday against the Bears.
Falcons defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham also suffered an MCL injury and was carted off the field.
The Falcons likely would not have put Pitts on injured reserve with a Grade 1 sprain, which normally has a recovery time of one to two weeks.
By going on injured reserve, Pitts and Graham must miss at least four games.
“Each grade has a different timetable for return,” said Dr. Carlos Uquillas, an orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles and a team physician for the Angels. “Grade 1 is usually one to two weeks. Grade 2 is two to four weeks to return. Grade 3 is six to eight weeks to return. So, based on the timeline they provided us, that might give us an idea of how bad it is.”
Pitts was injured in the third quarter of the Falcons’ 27-24 win over the Bears. Chicago safety Eddie Jackson hit Pitts just above the right knee.
“A sprain is a tear,” Uquillas said. “There are differences on how you classify them in terms of severity.”
The MCL can heal itself and not require surgery.
“The MCL is the connection between the femur and the tibia, the thigh bone and shin bone,” Uquillas said. “What it does is it prevents the knee from angling out when you put stress on it.”
Pitts, after pulling himself together, popped up and ran off the field.
“Grade 2 are moderate sprains where the actual ligament is disrupted, but not completely disrupted,” Uquillas said. “For the MCL, it’s one of those ligaments that heals reliably on its own. Usually, it does not require surgery.”
Pitts may have to wear a brace and then have rehabilitation.
“So, when the ligament is injured, the blood that kind of forms around it and the blood becomes a clot, and that clot then heals the ligament sprain sometimes with a little bit of looseness, but usually the MCL heals reliably well,” Uquillas said.
If Pitts has a Grade 3 sprain, he could come back for the 17th game, which is Jan. 8 (seven weeks away).
“Grade 3 tears are complete tears, meaning the connection is disrupted completely,” Uquillas said. “That can either happen closer to the femur or in the attachment to the thigh bone or lower down on the shin. They both heal a little bit differently.”
A Grade 3 MCL sprain could require surgery.
“Sometimes for a professional athlete, they’ll do a surgery to help it heal more reliably without any looseness,” Uquillas said. “Most of the time we brace them, rehab them, and they will heal on their own. Some of them can (have) surgery.”
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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule
Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26
Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27
Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23
Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20
Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15
Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14
Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17
Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT
Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17
Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15
Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24
Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.
Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD
Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD