Travis Etienne will be sidelined for the 2021 season due to experiencing a tear of the Lisfranc ligament in his left foot in Week 2 preseason game against the Saints. He will be undergoing surgery and was placed on Injury Reserve, effectively ending his rookie season. While we don’t expect him to return this season, he is just beginning his career and we must still examine what this injury spells for him down the line.
What Etienne had looks to be just a Lisfranc sprain without a fracture, after the foot X-ray he received came back as negative. The Lisfranc joint itself is the area where the midfoot and forefoot articulate, specifically the 1st-3rd metatarsals with the cuneiforms and the 4th and 5th with the cuboid bones respectively. The Lisfranc ligament connects the medial cuneiform to the second metatarsal bone that serves to maintain proper alignment and serve as a shock absorber during walking. Injury to the structure is generally caused from a high energy force to the midfoot or when the foot is flexed downward and axial loading occurs. It was reported that there was a significant tear of the ligament so one could surmise that it was a Grade 3 tear of the ligament that prompted him to have surgery.
Most athletes who undergo surgery do in fact end up returning to their sport without any issue in their performance, while there is a smaller percentage who may have lingering pain in the area for an extended period of time post-surgery. On average, both performance and career length, no matter which end of the ball the athlete is on, is not greatly impacted following the surgery, but a decline in performance is possible. Mean time of return is about 11 months per a recent study examining return to sport in NFL players following Lisfranc injury.
It's a tough break for the Jags. As former Clemson teammates, Etienne and Trevor Lawrence could have helped to stabilize each other during their rookie season. When Etienne returns, he'll have to battle a more established James Robinson. However, Etienne doesn’t have an extensive injury history. This is his first major injury and he’s young, expect him to rebound next season without lasting deficits.