Georgia Tech safety Fred Holton, his coaches and trainers had hoped that his tendon injury would heal and permit him to play. It appears, though, that time and hope may have run out for the 2012 season.
Season-ending surgery is an increasingly likely option to repair the posterior tibialis tendon in his lower left leg. After he tore it in an preseason scrimmage in August, trainers have been rehabbing the injury in hopes that it would heal and permit Holton to play, but the recovery has been slow and Holton has yet to see the field through seven games.
Tech sports medicine director Jay Shoop said coaches and medical staff are close to a point where a decision needs to be made about surgery.
“It certainly is a possibility, probably a probability,” Shoop said.
Holton’s hard luck continues. After playing as a true freshman out of Thomasville High in 2010, he was in competition for a starting safety spot in the 2011 preseason when he tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg and missed the entire season. After completing his rehabilitation, Holton was in line to start at safety this preseason and was receiving positive reviews from teammates when he partially tore the posterior tibialis tendon, which extends from the calf to the inside of the foot.
While both the Achilles and posterior tibialis were tendon injuries in Holton’s lower left leg, Shoop said there “wasn’t anything directly that could correlate” the two.
With the injury, there are two courses – rehab to promote healing or surgery. Surgery requires a three- or four-month rehabilitation and is season-ending, so the training staff opted for rehab.
“We felt like he had a chance to get better,” he said.
It is a tricky injury. Shoop, who has more than 40 years of experience in sports medicine, said he couldn’t remember seeing an injury like Holton’s in a long time. When he has consulted with colleagues, Shoop said, “the first thing they say (is), ‘That’s a bad injury.’”
“I know he’s frustrated,” coach Paul Johnson said last week. “We are, too. We thought he’d be back for the first game and now it’s halfway through the season.”
Ultimately, the degree of the tear was worse than what medical professionals could tell from the MRI.
“It’s a bad injury,” Shoop said. “It just didn’t get better.”
In addition to attending practice, Holton has rehabbed daily with Shoop and has reached the point where he can walk with comfort, run and backpedal. But the tendon, which helps the foot flex its muscles and rise up on its toes, has not permitted explosive movement.
“He’s a good kid. He’s done all the right things,” Shoop said. “Frustrating is a good word for all of us.”
As a result of the Achilles tear in 2011, Holton took a redshirt last season, leaving him three years of eligibility. While athletes typically have five years to complete their four seasons of eligibility, it’s possible Holton could receive a sixth year from the NCAA as a medical hardship case.
Because he is not practicing, Holton is not available for interviews, per team policy. Cornerback Louis Young said that Holton has been in good spirits despite the uncertainty and frustration. Holton has helped encourage Young through his own injuries, he said.
The injury has been “tough for him, tough for us,” Young said. “We want him out there.”
That desire may have to wait until spring practice, if not longer.
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog