NFL: The Dramatic Treatment RB Todd Gurley Might Need to Get Back on the Field

After the Rams chose RB Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, he exploded onto the scene with 10 touchdowns and more 1,100 yards en route to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. After a slight regression in 2016, he returned with even bigger numbers in the last two seasons. He sat out the last couple games of the 2018 regular season, though, and played limited snaps in the Rams’ final two postseason games due to a knee injury that the team initially downplayed. But it was recently revealed that Todd Gurley may have an arthritic knee, and he’s seeking a unique treatment to help heal it.

What is Todd Gurley’s injury status?

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The Rams haven’t confirmed the reports of Gurley having arthritis in his left knee are accurate, but there is some issue with the knee. It is the same knee in which Gurley suffered a torn ACL in 2014 during his junior year at the University of Georgia. Right now, the Rams have him undergoing an offseason regimen with the hope that he’ll recover in time for the start of the season in September. However, if that doesn’t work the team may have to take a more drastic measure to get Gurley back on the field.

What dramatic treatment might Todd Gurley need?

According to a Rams source, the team is considering having Gurley get a stem cell treatment to aid in his recovery. The treatment would involve injecting bone marrow from his pelvis into the affected area of Gurley’s knee, which would work as an anti-inflammatory to help accelerate the healing process. Stem cell treatment typically requires several weeks of recovery time before the patient can return to activity.

Have other players had stem cell treatment?

Todd Gurley plans to try a unique medical treatment to heal his knee, the same one Knowshon Moreno (right) had.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hands off to running back Knowshon Moreno in 2014. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If Todd Gurley undergoes the treatment, he won’t be the first NFL player to do so. According to a 2014 Sports Illustrated report, hundreds of players had sought stem cell treatments by that time. Among the players who have had stem cell treatments are running backs Chris Johnson, Knowshon Moreno, and Jamaal Charles. Like Gurley, those players were seeking treatment for knee injuries.

Of that trio, Moreno was the only one who rebounded well after getting the stem cell treatment. After having the procedure during the 2013 offseason, Moreno ran for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns; Johnson and Charles didn’t return to their pre-treatment form. Moreno may be the best analog for Gurley because he was 26 in the 2013 season and Gurley will be 25 this season; Johnson and Charles were both 29 when they returned from their procedures.

What does Gurley’s injury mean for the Rams?

Regardless of what Gurley’s injury is or what treatments he may need to have, the Rams will probably have to cut down on his usage in the future. His 229 carries in his rookie season is the fewest of his professional career.  

The team signed C.J. Anderson late last season, and he ended up performing well and getting much of the workload for the final two games of the regular season and in the playoffs. But he’s a free agent, and assuming the Rams don’t re-sign him, they’ll have to add another player to back up Todd Gurley. That player would likely come in free agency or the draft.

Among the backs still available on the market who could be viable backups or injury fill-ins are T.J. Yeldon, LeGarrette Blount, Alfred Blue, and Jay Ajayi. If the Rams draft a running back, they probably wouldn’t use an early pick on the position because Gurley is still their starter at the position for the foreseeable future, or as long as his knee will allow him to continue playing at or near the top of his game.