By: Loren Kalm for Knee1
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has faced multiple impediments to recovering from a season ending knee injury suffered during the team’s season opener on September 7. Brady tore both his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament); injuries that when present together, require two independent surgeries.
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| Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Having Knee Surgery:|
How long will my recovery period be?
Will I need to avoid certain work or recreational activities?
What risk/complications can occur with this surgery?
What are the chances I’ll need to have more than one surgical procedure?
What will my strength/range of motion be like following surgery?
Are there non-surgical treatments I should consider?
The initial surgery to fix the MCL was completed without apparent complications. However, when doctors went to fix the ACL four weeks later they found that the MCL had not fully healed causing instability in the knee. This meant that another incision had to be made to fix the still-damaged MCL. Many doctors recommend up to six weeks between the two surgeries to ensure that the MCL has time to properly heal, but this timeline is often shortened for professional athletes so they can resume rehabilitation and playing as quickly as possible.
The most significant complications came after this second surgery, when the incision from the follow up MCL repair became infected. Infections are generally rare following knee surgery, but Brady’s was severe enough that it required three subsequent arthroscopic procedures to clean the knee in addition to a six-week course of intravenous antibiotics.
The true concern was that the infection could in rare cases cause damage to the patellar tendon graft used to replace the ACL. If that were to occur, an additional surgery on the ACL would have to be undertaken, which could push back Brady’s rehabilitation, perhaps to the point that he would miss substantial time in the 2009 season.
As of right now, it seems Brady has avoided any further damage to the graft. Doctors say that he has responded well to the antibiotics and expect a full recovery following rehabilitation. Nonetheless, this saga has brought the dangers and complications of knee surgery to the public eye. In scenarios where surgery is avoidable, other options should be considered. Additionally, when considering a speedy recovery precaution in the interest of safety should always be taken, as rushing procedures could lead to even more damage.