After the Eagles announced Carson Wentz would undergo surgery to reconstruct a torn ACL, everyone is wondering when he can play again. This is the first question athletes ask me after ACL surgery and my answer is always, “when you’re ready.”
Athletes want a definitive time frame but that’s nearly impossible to give. Return to play is extremely individual and needs to be based on achieving objective, measurable goals and not an arbitrary time frame.
In the past, sports medicine professionals would give an estimated time frame, often six months, for return to play. But research and clinical experience has shown that athletes rarely fit into arbitrary time frames. Returning too soon following ACL reconstruction can put an athlete at high risk for re-injury or injuring the opposite knee. A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Sports showed that athletes returning to play prior to nine months had as high as a 40 percent re-injury rate. More importantly, athletes who passed an objective-based return to play testing battery reduced their re-injury risk to only 6 percent.
So, what is an objective-based return to play testing battery? There is still debate on which tests are most effective at teasing out any deficits or limitations that would predispose an athlete to re-injury, but most research supports assessing balance, strength, and the athlete’s ability to hop. I I developed a return to practice battery that I have been using for over five years and my unpublished data shows a significant reduction in re-injury rates for the athletes who have passed all aspects of testing. The battery assesses balance, strength, power, hopping, and landing mechanics using simple clinic-based tests and incorporating newer technology such as force plates and 2-D video analysis. This test also helps the athlete return to their pre-injury level of performance.
The last part of the process is the progressive return-to-practice programming. Athletes need to slowly progress activity from simple, straight drills to higher-level cutting and pivoting. They need to progress from non-contact to contact practice. There is also a newer term in sports medicine called acute/chronic work load. This simply means not increasing training load too quickly and not returning a player until they have reached their pre-injury training loads. Professional sports have high-tech ways of measuring this such as GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring where we use more lo tech monitoring for athletes who don’t have access to GPS monitoring
Returning to play following ACL reconstruction is a measurable process based on testing and training data. The Eagles will base Wentz’s return on these objective criteria. Eagles fans can be confident that Wentz will be back on the field, at or near his pre-injury performance level, for pre-season next August.
Philly.com Sports Doc
Posted: Friday September 19, 2014
Most of us by now have at least heard about, if not seen, RG III’s ankle injury against the Jaguars on Sunday, September 14. The sports media reports that he suffered an ankle dislocation without fracture. This type of ankle injury is very rare as ankle dislocations almost always happen in conjunction with a fracture of the lateral malleolus, medial malleolus and/or the distal posterior aspect of the tibia.
From watching the video of the injury, RG III’s ankle looks to roll inward. It is unclear which direction his ankle dislocated and whether it was an open or closed dislocation but one would assume that there is significant damage to his ankle ligaments, specifically his deltoid ligament.
Treatment for this injury will involve a period of non-weight bearing with cast immobilization. Once the cast is removed, his ankle will be re-assessed for any ligament laxity that may not have healed with immobilization and may require subsequent surgery. If surgery is required, the loose ligaments will either be repaired (sewn together) or reconstructed (other tissue used to replace the injured ligament).
Return to sports after ankle ligament surgery usually takes 3-6 months. If surgery is not required, he will start progressive weight bearing and rehabilitation to regain ankle range of motion/flexibility, ankle and general lower extremity strength, and lower leg balance and motor control. From there, he will initiate sports-specific activities including running. This rehab program is relatively the same whether he undergoes surgery or not. There is less published research on return to sports following ankle dislocation without fracture, but one case study showed a time frame of 6 months in a recreational athlete.
The latest news coming from the team is that he will be casted for about 10 days, will not require surgery, and that he will be back in 4-6 weeks. That time frame is extremely optimistic if it was truly an ankle dislocation. There should be a much clearer prognosis once he is out of the cast and re-evaluated. But until then, make sure you don’t have him in your starting fantasy line up.
Philly.com Sports Doc
Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014, 5:30 AM
Achilles tendon rupture, the fear of every middle age man on the basketball and tennis court. Now that I am in my 40s I fall into that category. And unfortunately for me, I recently felt the dreaded “pop” while playing doubles tennis. At first, I thought the ball came from the next court and hit me on the back of the leg. Then I came to my senses and realized I had torn my Achilles. The people who stopped playing on the courts next to us must have thought I was in a lot of pain the way I was yelling while lying on the baseline. In truth, I didn’t really have much pain. I was yelling because I knew what was to come: Surgery, weeks of non-weight bearing and partial weight bearing, and the huge inconvenience this would be for work and life in general. My father-in-law, who was my partner in this ill-fated doubles match pointed out, “Hey, at least you won the point.” Not much consolation. My summer fun was over.
So what happened? How did I tear my Achilles? As I am known to do, I reviewed all the research hoping to figure out the cause. Maybe I was fatigued which may have contributed to the injury. More likely I’m predisposed as I tore the other side over a decade ago playing soccer. Neither time did I have any Achilles pain leading up to the injury.
There are some studies showing possible relationships with risk factors and Achilles ruptures. In the June 2014 edition of the journal Sports Medicine, Claessen et al categorized these potential risk factors into two categories: non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable factors include age, race, sex, medical issues, pre-existing musculoskeletal disease/tendon changes, ankle/foot alignment and genetic factors. Modifiable risk factors include obesity, sports activity, medication and smoking. From a specific sport perspective, Achilles tendon ruptures are found more frequently in athletes who participate in sports involving explosive acceleration such as basketball, tennis, baseball, and softball. Of the above factors, medications, especially Quinolones (specific antibiotics) and Corticosteroids, have shown to have the greatest risk for Achilles rupture.
There are multiple potential risk factors for Achilles tendon ruptures but none have been proven to be key factors. One risk factor that I definitely have is O blood type. A study from 1989 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine stated “In cases of multiple ruptures and re-ruptures, the frequency of blood group O was 71%.” However, the O blood type correlation is still up for debate.
Although the mechanism is still up for debate, what you’ll see if you slow down a video of the injury is the player taking a back step to push off and the knee forcibly extending at the same time. The combined force of foot plantar flexion and knee extension is likely too much stress for the tendon to handle. Watch the video of David Beckham tearing his Achilles for the prototypical mechanism of injury.
Strauss et al reported the following statistics in 2007 in the International Journal of the Care of the Injured. The incidence of Achilles tendon rupture is approximately 18 per 100,000 people. Ruptures typically occur in males between 30 and 50 years old and account for approximately 40% of all operative tendon repairs. Approximately 75-80% of cases can be attributed to participation in athletic activities, including ball and racquet sports.
Surgery or not?
There is ongoing debate as to what is the best course of treatment: Surgical repair or non-operative treatment. Surgery involves bringing the two ends of the tear together and suturing them in place while the tendon heals. Non-surgical treatment involves casting the foot in plantarflexion (toes pointed down) and recasting weekly with gradual progression into dorsiflexion (toes up). Non-operative care has demonstrated a re-rupture rate from 10-30% where surgical re-rupture rates are around 3-4%. Surgical complications have been reported to occur in 7-42% of all cases and include difficulty with wound healing, skin necrosis, infection, and sensory loss. For me, it wasn’t a question. I elected to have surgery as I want the best chance at a full recovery.
This is the most frustrating part for me. For surgeries such as an ACL reconstruction, the harder you work the quicker you recover. It’s just the opposite with an Achilles repair. The tendon needs time to heel so for the first 2-4 weeks you can’t put any weight on the foot. Then, over the next 3-4 weeks you gradually increase weight bearing in a boot with a heel lift to take pressure off the tendon. Strengthening is started late in the rehab process which means it takes a long time to get your full strength back, and many people never regain full strength after this injury. I never regained full strength after my first surgery and definitely lost a step with sports (although that could just be me getting older but I’m going with the injury). It takes approximately 4-6 months to start back to running and to initiate sports activities with complete recovery taking close to a year. As you can guess, I’m in for a long and slow recovery following Achilles surgery.
Is there any way to prevent an Achilles injury? There isn’t much research on this topic. In younger, high level athletes, there probably isn’t a way to prevent it other than not playing as intensely. For someone older like me, there is the possibility that by improving flexibility and fitness you may be able to reduce the risk of injury, but it is still probably just bad luck.
For me, I’ll do my rehab and get back on the tennis court and the soccer field in the spring. Unless my surgeon and my wife force me to take up a sport with a lower risk of traumatic injuries, but with my luck, I’ll probably fall off the elliptical and break an arm.
Philly.com Sports Doc
POSTED: WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014
We've all heard of ACL and Tommy John surgeries. But, have you heard of “hip scope,” the newest surgery in sports? Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Tim Thomas, Osi Umenyiora, Ed Reed: these are just a few of the big time athletes who have undergone hip arthroscopy. So, what is a hip scope? What does it fix? And how are athletes recovering from it?
Hip scope is short for hip arthroscopy and it describes the way the surgery is performed and not actually what is done. Hip arthroscopy is a newer technique and has advanced significantly over the last 5-10 years. With hip arthroscopy, the surgeon makes small portals or holes and uses a camera and surgical tools instead of making a large open incision.
There are numerous procedures that can be done through the scope. The most common are femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) decompression and labral debridement/repair. FAI decompression involves shaving down bone where the neck of the ball (femoral neck) pinches on the socket (acetabulum). Bone can either be shaved down on the femoral neck, the acetabulum, or both. For a torn labrum, it can either be trimmed or repaired with sutures depending on the location of the tear and the quality of the tissue. Other procedures that can be done arthroscopically are synovectomy, removal of loose bodies, articular cartilage procedures, capsular release (loosening) or plication (tightening), psoas tendon release, IT band release, and repair of a hip rotator cuff tear.
In young, athletic patients we can expect a full return to activity and sports after the surgery. The time frame to return to full athletic participation is about 4-6 months. A 2011 American Journal of Sports Medicine study by Kelly et al looked at outcomes after the arthroscopic treatment of femoroacetabular impingement in a mixed group of high-level athletes. In that group, 78 percent of athletes were able to return to play by one year and 73 percent of athletes were able to play at a two-year follow-up. Another 2011 American Journal of Sports Medicine study by Byrd et al looked at arthroscopic management of femoroacetabular impingement in athletes. In Byrd’s study, 95 percent of professional athletes and 85 percent of intercollegiate athletes were able to return to their previous level of competition. These articles show that in younger, high level athletes the outcomes are very successful. What they don’t show are the results at 5 and 10 years. In patients over 35, the outcomes aren’t as good, as the problem is usually longer standing and has likely started to show some signs of early cartilage damage (i.e. arthritis). A 2014 study in Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy by Krych et al looked at isolated arthroscopic labral debridement for hip labral tears in patients between the ages of 32 and 60. Of these patients, 45 percent had combined poor results when strictly defining failure as repeat surgery or abnormal hip rating. Untreated FAI and concomitant chondroplasty were risk factors for inferior outcome. As with most orthopedic problems, patients under 35 show good results, while patients over 35 show less favorable outcomes.
Postoperative rehabilitation is a very important factor in the outcome of hip arthroscopy. The key is to correct any underlying dysfunction that may have led to the surgery (ie flexibility, strength, alignment, etc). What we typically see with hip problems is a loss of internal rotation range of motion, gluteus medius weakness, and core weakness. It is important to see an athletic trainer or physical therapist that specializes in hip rehabilitation as the postoperative rehabilitation guidelines are still being developed and those without experience may do more harm than good.
So the next time you see an athlete on the IR or DL following a hip scope, you might be wondering (as I always do) what they really had done. We know that following this procedure, the athlete should be back and playing at some point, but the question is when. Your fantasy draft may depend on it.
Justin Shaginaw, M.P.T., A.T.C.
POSTED: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2014, 6:00 AM
This is the last blog of a three part series on winter scholastic sports. Let’s head to the mat.
Sprains and strains account for nearly half of all wrestling injuries with the shoulder being more common in high school wrestlers and the knee more common in college. About 40 percent of those injured return to the mat within 1 week.
These injuries should be evaluated by your team’s athletic trainer and appropriate treatment plan developed. This usually includes some time off the mat, rehabilitation exercises (strengthening, stretching, balance, etc), and modalities (heat, ice, etc). For more serious injuries, schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician for further work up (x-rays, MRI, etc) and other treatment options .
Dislocations/subluxations account for approximately 10% of all wrestling injuries. These are urgent and often times emergent injuries requiring immediate care from an athletic trainer followed by a referral to a sports medicine physician or the emergency room. These injuries most commonly occur to the shoulder, elbow, and patella and require a prolonged period off the mat and rehabilitation.
Lacerations are much more common in college wrestling and account for approximately 10 percent of collegiate injuries. These injuries vary in severity with some being managed by your athletic trainer with an immediate return to practice or the match while others require physician referral for sutures. Suturing may require a period of time off the mat depending on the location.
Fractures are the second most common injury in high school wrestlers accounting for approximately 15 percent of all injuries. These are emergent injuries requiring immediate care from an athletic trainer and referral to a sports medicine physician or the emergency room. Fractures require a significant period of time off the mat and are often season-ending.
Concussions account for approximately 5 percent of injuries for both high school and college wrestlers. The majority of concussions resolve within a week. A small portion will require a prolonged recovery period and may require a significant amount of time away from the sport. All concussions should be taken seriously and evaluated initially by the team’s athletic trainer with a referral to s sports medicine physician trained in evaluation and management of athletic concussions.
Skin infections represented 8.5% and 20.3% of all reported high school and college adverse events respectively.
All wrestlers with a skin infection should be evaluated by a physician for appropriate medical treatment as dictated by National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Wrestlers will also need a clearance letter from their physician clearing them to return to practice and competition. There are also prophylactic treatment options for some dermatologic conditions such as herpes which can be prescribed by a physician.
Wrestling injuries are usually due to the combative nature of the sport. As you can see, sprains and strains account for the majority of wrestling injuries. Most of these are minor and can be managed conservatively with a quick return to sports. The above treatment recommendations are just a guideline and any injury should be evaluated by your team’s athletic trainer or a sports medicine physician to accurately diagnose the injury and provide appropriate care.
Philly.com Sports Doc
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC, Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute, Athletic Trainer - US Soccer Federation Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 6:00 AM
The core: it’s the buzzword in rehab and fitness circles. Everyone talks about how important it is for treating low back pain and for athletic performance. But what is it really and what are the most effective ways to strengthen it?
It is important to know that the core is not just your abs. To date, there is no definitive definition of what truly is the core. A May 2010 study by Escamilla et al. described the core as “the lumbopelvic-hip complex, which involves deeper muscles, such as the internal oblique, transversus abdominis, transversospinalis (multifidus, rotatores, semispinalis), quadratus lumborum, and psoas major and minor, and superficial muscles, such as the rectus abdominis, external oblique, erector spinae (iliocostalis, spinalis, longissimus), latissimus dorsi, glute maximus and medius, hamstrings, and rectus femoris.”
As you can see, that covers a lot of muscles including ones that directly affect the upper and lower extremities as well as the lumbar spine and pelvis. These muscles are important for both movement and stabilization of the pelvis and spine.
Which muscles are most important to strengthen and which exercises are most effective? There is still great debate on all of this. Research is starting to show that it is important to strengthen the core as a stabilizer versus a mover. This means exercises where the trunk is stable and static (ie. planks vs. sit ups). A 2002 article by Cholewicki and VanVliet in the journal Clinical Biomechanics reported that “no single core muscle can be identified as most important for lumbar spine stability” and “no one muscle contributes more than 30 percent to overall spine stability.”
How do we contract/activate the core? There are numerous techniques used to facilitate activation of the deep core musculature: abdominal hollowing, abdominal bracing, draw-in maneuver, and posterior pelvic tilt just to name a few. None of these has been shown to be the most effective at core activation, even with EMG studies. The key is to contract the deep abdominals, including the pelvic floor. You should feel your abdominals tighten above and below your belly button as well as in your love handle region (obliques). The Kegel exercise, which is used to contract the pelvic floor, is another good way to activate your core musculature. However you achieve this core activation, you have to maintain it throughout the repetition/exercise duration. If you’re holding your plank for 2 minutes, you probably lost your core control at about 30 seconds.
So, let’s put it all together.
Philly.com Sports Doc
POSTED: Saturday, June 8, 2013, 6:00 AM
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC, Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute, Athletic Trainer - US Soccer Federation
With the outdoor tennis season comes sprains and strains, aching knees and shoulders. Today, we will focus on common tennis injuries, how to prevent them, and how to treat them when they occur:
This seems to be the bane of tennis players as it can be very difficult to treat. Not all tennis players get tennis elbow as some get golfer’s elbow and vice versa. Tennis elbow starts with pain in the lateral elbow where the wrist extensor muscles attach. Golfer’s elbow presents with medial elbow pain where the wrist flexors attach.
There can be many causes of elbow pain including acute soreness from getting back on the court, overuse from playing too much, incorrect grip size, and inappropriate string tension to name a few. One thing that is often a major contributor and is usually overlooked is the shoulder. A loss of internal rotation known as glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD) and scapular dyskinesis are often times the underlying causes of elbow pain in tennis.
Once symptoms have occurred, rest and ice can help with acute pain. If symptoms persist, it is best to see a sports medicine physician, athletic trainer, or physical therapist that specializes in overhead athletes for an evaluation and treatment recommendations.
Shoulder pain accounts for the majority of tennis injuries. In younger players (under 40) the common culprit is a labral tear. In older players (over 40) we start suspecting rotator cuff involvement. There are numerous causes of shoulder injuries such as overuse, incorrect racket and string tension, and poor form/hitting mechanics. But just as with elbow pain, GIRD and scapular dyskinesis are often times the root of the problem.
This is a problem that we really only see in our high level youth and professional players. In a closed or neutral hitting stance, the majority of power is created from the legs. An open stance limits the legs ability to develop power and instead it is produced through the abdominals via trunk rotation.
With the open hitting stance becoming the norm, we are treating more and more of these injuries. In the past we would usually saw a few rectus abdominus injuries from serves per season. Now, we are seeing a dramatic increase in oblique injuries due to the rotational force with the open stance. Two ways to prevent this injury are to change your stance back to a neutral/closed position and the other is to develop a strong core. If you do experience an abdominal injury, make sure to see a sports medicine specialist as these injuries need to be evaluated and treated appropriately.
There are 3 main injuries to the knee in tennis. The first is an ACL injury, which rarely occurs in tennis due to the mainly linear movement patterns as compared to cutting and pivoting sports such as soccer and football. When an ACL injury does occur, one should see an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in ACL reconstruction to discuss surgical and non-surgical options.
The second and more common knee injury is a meniscal tear. These can be acute in nature in our younger players (under 40) or chronic and degenerative in our older players (over 40). As with ACL injuries, one should see a sports medicine physician to discuss treatment options.
The third and most common knee injury in everyday tennis players is an aggravation to underlying arthritis. This occurs from either overuse or an acute irritation to a pre-existing arthritic condition. The best treatment for these injuries is the old RICE method (rest, ice, elevation, and compression).
Please click on the link to view these exercises. http://www.justinshaginawptatc.com/exercise-programs.html
As with any exercise program, please consult a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.
There are a few simple exercises that will help keep you in the game. They should be performed 2-4 times a week at the recommended number of sets and repetitions. When in doubt, see an athletic trainer or physical therapist for an individualized program specific to you.
Sleeper stretch: this stretch helps to improve shoulder internal range of motion. Stretches should be pain free. Perform 3-5 repetitions holding for 30 seconds.
No moneys: Will help to improve scapular strength and control. Key is to squeeze your shoulders down and back. Only rotate arms out in a pain free range of motion. Do 2 sets to fatigue.
Timothy Tyler, PT, ATC from the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City has developed an eccentric exercise program for tennis elbow using a rubber bar. His program has been validated by research and has been able to reduce symptoms fairly quickly.
Plank exercises are probably the best and simplest exercises for core strengthening. Key is to contact not only your rectus abdominus (your 6 pack abs) but also your rotators and deep stabilizers (obliques, quadratus lumborum, and multifidus). To do this, suck in your belly button like you are trying to get into a tight pair of pants. Don’t hold your breath. You should feel your abs tight above and below your belly button and more importantly around your sides in your love handle region. Make sure to have good form with the planks (straight as an arrow through your ankles, knees, hips, shoulder and head) and only hold the position as long as you can maintain good form and tightened abs.
Flexibility is important in your thoracic and lumbar spine with extension and rotation being the key factors. Prone press ups or the cobra yoga pose is an excellent way to improve extension. Supine trunk rotation stretches will help maintain and improve rotational range of motion. These should be performed for 3-5 repetitions with 30 second hold. Do not work through pain with stretching.
Flexibility is also key in the lower extremities. Quad, hamstring, and calf stretches should be performed for 3-5 repetitions holding 30 seconds on each side. Once again, stretching should be pain free.
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC is lead therapist and coordinator of sports medicine at Aria 3B Orthopaedic institute.
Philly.com Sports Doc
POSTED: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 6:00 AM
Justin Shaginaw MPT, ATC
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis speaks during an NFL Super Bowl XLVII football news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, in New Orleans. Lewis denied a report linking him to a company that purports to make performance-enhancers. The Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
We all marvel in the extraordinary recovery of athletes following injury.
Ray Lewis returned to play less than 3 months following tricep repair surgery. Adrian Peterson nearly broke the single season NFL rushing record less than a year after ACL reconstruction. Kyle Lowry played point guard for Villanova less than 4 months following his own ACL reconstruction.
How is this possible? Do these gifted athletes just work harder during rehab? Do their bodies heal faster than the rest of us?
Or could it be the fear of most sports fans in the 21st century? Could these be using performance enhancing agents to speed up their recovery? Let’s discuss the factors and controversies that contribute to a speedy recovery in more detail.
Ray Lewis and his tricep. Ray injured his tricep on October 14th, 2012. He had surgery three days later and played in his first game on January 6th, 2013. That’s less than 3 months after injury—an unheard of turnaround time. There are many factors contributing to his extraordinary recovery.
First and foremost, Ray took a great risk at returning that soon. His chance of re-tear was very high as the surgical repair takes at least 3-4 months to be even close to being strong enough to withstand the forces involved in football. I’m sure that his rehab was rigorous in regaining the strength needed to block and tackle in the NFL. One would think his age would be a detriment to a speedy recovery, but it doesn’t seem to have been a factor.
The big question: did the deer antler spray help? There is little scientific evidence that IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) has any performance enhancing or injury recovery benefit. And IGF-1 is not affected when delivered through a spray. In Ray Lewis’ case, he probably beat the odds of re-injury by playing as early as he did vs. having an amazing recovery aided by performance enhancing supplements.
Adrian Peterson. He is still the talk of the town when it comes to returning from ACL surgery. In his first season back, he nearly sets the NFL rushing record.
Adrian’s first game back was 9 months after his ACL surgery. Although his level of play was astonishing— many players never quite get back to their pre-injury level—the time frame that he returned to play in is within the normal range of 9-12 months. Was there anything more than hard work and determination that contributed to his recovery? A good surgeon and rehab staff helps. But probably more than anything is what makes him such an amazing athlete is the same thing that gave him such a remarkable recovery… great DNA. There are no rumors or whispers about deer spray or any other performance enhancing substances with Peterson, just old fashioned hard work.
When we look for an unbelievably quick recovery from ACL rehabilitation, we don’t need to look any further than the Main Line and former Villanova basketball star Kyle Lowry. Kyle tore his ACL the summer before his freshman year at Villanova. He had surgery on September 17th and played in his first collegiate game on December 31st. That’s just 3 ½ months after ACL reconstruction! Not only did he return to play so quickly, but he had a great season and was named to the Big East All-Rookie team as well as being tabbed Philadelphia Big Five Rookie of the Year. Kyle has gone on to have a successful NBA career without any inkling of a previous ACL injury.
In Lowry’s case, his recovery can be based almost exclusively on his genetics as even performance enhancing substances couldn’t have produced such as a rapid return to basketball.
Genetics, hard work, or performance enhancement? How do these athletes return so quickly? Even though in Ray Lewis’ case there are questions regarding hormone usage, all the deer antler spray in the world won’t get players back on the court and field as quickly as these players returned. These players get back to sports on the accelerated track due to their genetic makeup, excellent surgeons and rehab staff, hard work, and willingness to play in a time frame that puts them at higher risk for re-injury.
Philly.com Sports Doc
The evolution of ACL injuries
POSTED: Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 5:55 AM
Justin Shaginaw and Arthur Bartolozzi
We all have heard someone talk about their ‘trick knee’ they hurt in high school football, or the stories of players losing their college scholarship due to a knee injury. So how does Adrian Peterson return in less than a year and just miss the NFL rushing record? Let's look back and see how we've gotten from there to here—from career-ending setbacks to near-record setting comebacks.
An online search reveals little specifics when looking for career ending knee injuries. This may be because the injury kept players from ever having a recognizable career. Joe Namath was one of a few players to have a successful career in early days of ACL injuries. Namath had a brace made especially for him that allowed him to continue to play without surgery. Back then, surgery was almost always career ending due to the procedure itself and the poor rehabilitation afterwards.
It wasn't until the 1970s when Temple physician Dr. Joe Torg first discussed the Lachman's test for assessing an ACL injury. In the 1980s the MRI helped us to diagnose an ACL tear. Around this same time, arthroscopy was first used for knee injuries. Since then there has been an evolution in both the surgery itself and the subsequent rehabilitation.
Surgery has gone from using a button outside the skin as an anchor for the ACL graft to bioabsorbable screws for anatomical reconstruction. Rehabilitation has also progressed from being casted for 6 weeks to riding a stationary bike the next day following surgery. These advances in surgery and rehab are what allow exceptional athletes the opportunity to return to same level of play in such a short period of time.
But players like Adrian Peterson are the exception and not the norm. In reality it takes a year or more to fully recover from ACL surgery. And even Peterson has not fully recovered as evidenced by some physical measurements and teammates' reports. Now when players suffer career ending injuries it is not solely due to the ACL, but multiple ligament injuries or articular cartilage damage.
New surgical and rehabilitation techniques are allowing players to return to pre-injury levels of competition—but only through months of hard work. In the past, surgery ended careers. Now it allows extraordinary athletes to return in such short periods of time, and average athletes to eventually return to the sports they love.
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC is an assistant athletic trainer for the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. Arthur Bartolozzi, MD, is Director of Sport Medicine at Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute