If you are a Philadelphia sports fan, there is no doubt you saw the gruesome video clip of Leonard Weaver’s injury during last Sunday’s game. In case you missed it, you can watch it below. (Word of warning to the squeamish: watching a knee bend the opposite way is not easy on the stomach!)
Although the official medical report on his injury has not been released, it doesn’t take a trained health professional to know it was severe and that the ACL was involved. The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of four ligaments in the knee that provide stability. Originating on the back side of the femur (large thigh bone) and ending on the front side of the tibia (main lower leg bone), it functions to prevent the lower leg from moving back beyond regular standing extension. Only a complete tear of this ligament would allow the gross amount of backwards movement of the knee, as seen in the footage above.
Football is one of the most common sports where an ACL injury can occur. In fact Jamaal Jackson, who ruptured his tricep in Sunday’s game as well, had just returned to the game after rehabbing his ACL.
A typical rehab of an ACL repair takes any where from six to nine months and is pretty extensive. One of the most important exercises that will be included at one point in the rehabilitation is the dead lift. This exercise is often performed incorrectly. To view the form required to perform an effective deadlift check out the video below. (All athletes should consider making the deadlift a part of their normal cross-training routine, as it one of the best functional exercises that can be done.)
The question now is, will it be a career-ending injury for Leonard or will surgery and rehab get him back in the game? Professional football players come back all the time from this surgery, typically quicker than the general public, so why might we not see Weaver return next year? The answer is that when you see that much backwards translation, there is most likely other ligaments in the leg involved … possibly all four. Rehabbing a knee after an ACL repair is hard enough in the professional player due to the amount of stability and neuromuscular control required to return to a game that involves cutting, agility, and tackling. Gaining the necessary stability and functional mobility for the leg when more than one ligament has been compromised is another story. Only time, in combination with a good surgeon and excellent rehabilitation, will tell.