Knee Injuries Plague Professional Athletes
October 07, 2002
By Audrey Walton, Knee1 Staff
A recent spate of knee injuries has sidelined a number of professional athletes, including running backs Dominic Rhodes and Luke Staley, linebacker Warrick Holdman, and soccer forward Josh Wolff, forcing some players to consider early retirement and potentially affecting the outcome of several playoff games. In the last two months, the NFL has lost several defensive starters due to knee injuries, and college football and professional soccer have also lost key players due to torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs).
On August 15, Dominic Rhodes, a running back who led the Indianapolis Colts in rushing last year with 1,104 yards, tore the ACL in his right knee during practice. Rhodes earned his place in the Colts’ starting lineup last year when Edgerrin James, two time rushing champion, was sidelined for the rest of the year by a torn ACL in his left knee. Brian Allen, also a running back with the Colts, recently suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee, and has been placed on injured reserve.
This past Sunday, Chicago Bears linebacker Warrick Holdman was sidelined for the rest of the season after being injured during the first quarter of the Bears’ game in Buffalo. This Monday, he will undergo surgery to repair the torn cartilage in his right knee. Running back R.W. McQuarters, another defensive starter for the Bears, has been out since the opening game with a knee injury as well. At the beginning of August, Luke Staley, a promising rookie running back with the Detroit Lions, reinjured an ACL that had already been reconstructed while he played at Brigham Young, putting his future in professional football in question.
In college football, the South Carolina Gamecocks were devastated a week and a half ago by the loss of middle linebacker Lance Laury, who damaged the cartilage in his left knee in the first quarter of a victory against Vanderbilt. Laury’s teammate center C.J. Frye also injured his left knee last week. Both players will undergo knee operations and are out of commission indefinitely.
In professional soccer, Josh Wolff, a forward with the Chicago Fire who contributed to the U.S. National Team’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, suffered a torn right ACL in the middle of August and will be out of commission for four to six months. Pavel Bure, a forward with the New York Rangers, also injured his right knee recently. Bure has undergone surgery to reconstruct his right ACL twice before.
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, controls how far forward the tibia (the shin bone) moves in relation to the femur (the thigh bone). The ACL is the most commonly injured part of the knee. Sports requiring that the foot be planted and the body change direction rapidly (such as football, basketball, and soccer) have an unusually high incidence of ACL injuries. The most common corrective procedure for severe ACL injuries is reconstructive surgery, which often consists of removing the torn ends of the ACL and then grafting on replacement material from another tendon (often the patellar tendon).
The majority of the knee’s cartilage, known in medical terminology as the meniscus, has no blood flow. As a result, the tissue cannot repair itself in the way that much of the human body can, and injuries to the cartilage, like injuries to the ligaments, often require reconstructive surgery.