Players Returning From Knee Surgeries Quicker

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ACL Injuries Occurring More Frequently

By John Ventola

As athletes have become bigger and faster in recent decades, the number of debilitating injuries suffered playing football has increased. Today there is new evidence and concern about what repeated concussions can do to a human brain. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is real, a progressive degenerative disease that attacks current and former players who have suffered repeated brain injuries.

A new movie, “Concussion” is coming out Christmas Day, and it details what was found as a doctor examined the brain of former NFL All-Pro center Mike Webster. Webster

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Science And Medical Statistics Has Players Making Faster Recoveries

suffered multiple concussions during his Pittsburgh Steelers playing career, and showed early signs of trouble with bizarre behavior not long after his retirement. (I will go further into Concussions in a future blog).

Although concussions are the fear of every parent or player participating in the gridiron sport, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), MCL (medial collateral ligament), and Achilles tears lead weekly team injury reports putting players on disabled player lists. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have recently placed “plantar fasciitis” in the mix with foot ailments suffered this season.

While there are a few other season ending injuries (torn triceps, broken legs, etc.), players who suffer pulled hamstrings and quadriceps heal with rest and treatment, the same with high ankle sprains. Broken fingers can be realigned and casted, often allowing a player to stay in action, and certain arm injuries can be overcome with special padding and various contraptions that alter arm, or shoulder alignment.

However, an athlete knows immediately when a knee ligament tears, or an Achilles tendon ruptures. Nearly five decades after competing as a collegiate athlete (baseball), I ruptured my left Achilles in March this year taking my grandson to the circus. The

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Time Wounds All Heels—I Know Personally

family jokes I was the big act that day under the Big Top, but I stress how the injury occurred before the circus began, and my grandson missed nothing between my grimacing and the final bows.

Reattachment (by an excellent doctor who happens to be a good friend), healing, and non-bearing care of my left foot gave me back full function. It also gave me a stronger appreciation of any athlete who suffers an Achilles rupture, and is able to return to competition. This season St. Louis Cardinals star pitcher Adam Wainwright ruptured his in early May and was back pitching an inning or two in the National League playoffs in October.

Years ago knee surgeries seemed barbaric, leaving awful scars, and in some cases, resulting in limited mobility. (Watch any footballer from the ’60-‘70s era hobble around, Hokie Gajan comes to mind). Science, and advanced medical techniques, now give players who suffer knee injuries a second chance. With capable surgeons doing their part, athletes who are willing to put in strenuous rehabilitation time can get back on the field in nine months.

Former LSU star and 2011 Heisman Trophy candidate Tyrann Mathieu tore the ACL in his right knee Sunday when he landed awkwardly after intercepting a pass and tried to

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Non Contact ACL Injuries Quite Common

reverse direction and run. The injury was not caused by contact, just the way Mathieu landed and tried to change direction on a grass field. Mathieu tore the ACL in his left knee in December, 2013.

Tackles, and pile ups can cause torn ACLs, particularly when a player’s leg is planted and contact occurs. It leaves running backs, receivers, and quarterbacks vulnerable. However, Mathieu’s injury Sunday continues a pattern of non-contact ACL injuries to athletes who torque their bodies, and consequently their legs, in their chosen professions. Tiger Woods (golf), Lindsey Vonn (skiing), Derrick Rose and Rajan Rondo (basketball) all suffered non-contact ACL injuries. Note: If nothing else following their breakup, at least Tiger and Lindsey had that in common!

The ACL along with three other major ligaments supports and stabilizes the knee. The ACL, a band of connective tissue, links one’s femur, or thighbone, to one’s tibia, or shinbone. The ACL crosses diagonally in front of the posterior cruciate ligament to form an X behind one’s patella, or kneecap.

What does the ACL do, or protect? It maintains stability in the knee by limiting the forward motion of one’s tibia. It also helps prevent one’s tibia from rotating too far to the left or the right.

Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates tore his ACL Sunday also and joined Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco as NFL signal callers out for the year with ACL injuries. Last season Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer suffered his second ACL injury in eight years—to the same knee. Quarterbacks are particularly vulnerable as they plant their front foot in their throwing motion, and then twist in making some of their passes. Throw in contact from a defensive lineman, and it spells out a torn ACL in most cases.

Surgeons used a cadaver Achilles tendon to repair Palmer’s tear in 2006. Time, research, and medical statistics, have proven cadaver grafts, also known as allografts, to be less reliable than what is called “autografts”, a tissue graft taken from elsewhere in

By John

New Graft Procedure Has Players Returning To Action Quicker

the recipient’s body. Palmer surgeons replaced his ACL last year with a part of his patellar tendon, the ligament that connects the tibia with the patella, or kneecap. Palmer has enjoyed an injury free, productive 2015 season.

This year alone there were 27 ACL injuries in NFL training camps and preseason games (Green Bay’s wide receiver Jordy Nelson being the top name). No position was left unpunished as offensive and defensive players were included in the number. Since 1998, and before this season, there have been 1,254 knee related injuries that placed NFL players on disabled lists, or out for the season. Of those, 249 were ACL injuries.

Any injury can be disheartening, but football players can now look forward to a quicker recovery and return to the game from an ACL injury if they are willing to put in the necessary rehabilitation work.

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