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Analyzing ACL Injuries

ACL tears are a fairly common occurrence in sports, here's a rundown of what exactly they are.

As you all know by now, Jesé Rodríguez tore his ACL in Real Madrid's second leg against Schalke 04 in yesterday's round of 16 Champions League game. This is no minor injury as it will sideline Jesé for a minimum of six months and from my experience of watching many pro sports with many pro athletes I think it's safe to say that it will be closer to the nine month period. That should put it around winter break and my guess is that the Madrid staff won't rush him back so I'd expect to see his return right after the new year.

Of course, I'm no doctor, I'm but a lowly college student relying on Google and his experience in seeing this injury occur many, many times in professional sports. That being said, here is an explanation of the purpose of the ACL:

The thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) meet the kneecap (patella) to form the knee joint. The rounded ends of the femur, or condyles, line up with the flat tops of the tibia called the plateaus. There are a variety of structures that hold the knee joint stable and allow the condyles and plateaus to maintain their anatomic relationship so that the knee can glide easily through its range of motion. The knee is a hinge joint, but there is also some rotation that occurs when it bends and straightens.

There are four thick bands of tissue, called ligaments, that stabilize the knee and keep its movement in one plane.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) stabilize the sides of the knee preventing side to side buckling.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) form an X on the inside of the knee joint and prevent the knee from sliding back to front and front to back respectively.
The major muscles of the thigh also act as stabilizers: the quadriceps in the front of the leg and the hamstrings in the back.

A sprain occurs when a ligament is injured and the fibers are either stretched or torn. A first-degree sprain is a ligament that is stretched but with no fibers torn, while a second-degree sprain is a partially torn ligament. A third-degree sprain is a completely torn ligament.

And here is a short video describing it.

Here is a 3D reconstruction of the ligament if you want to see more.

Jesé is scheduled to have his surgery done today so today is the first step in the recovery process. As I mentioned, it can take anywhere from six to nine months to return but that's not the end of it. The big question once he returns is will he have the full pace and explosiveness which made him such a terror for defenders to mark.

Plenty of athletes have torn their ACLs. Madrid's own Sami Khedira is currently recovering from it and one guy which was discussed in the comments section the last two days, Barcelona's Xavi, tore his ACL and look at the career he's forged. However, his role isn't as explosive and stop and turn as Jesé's so time will tell how effective Jesé will be once he returns. That being said, don't lose hope. One example, albeit an unrealistic one, is professional American football player/cyborg Adrian Peterson (my favorite handegg player) who plays for the Minnesota Vikings (my favorite handegg team). Peterson tore his ACL on a December afternoon and was back on the field in September on route to win his first Most Valuable Player award and showing zero signs of a knee injury. That's in a sport where he was constantly getting tackled by 300+ pound men and where he had to make a hundred cuts and jukes in a game in order to avoid defenders. The scary thing is that Peterson was practicing at 100 percent effort that summer, thus putting his recovery time around 6-7 months. Can Jesé pull that off? Maybe, but Peterson is also a genetic and physical freak.

Now, I know it's a bit of an apples and oranges comparison between the sports and athletes but we shouldn't lose sleep over this. I fully expect Madrid's staff, which is presumably world class, to get Jesé back on the pitch in no time. In the past this injury used to end careers but certain reports now state that 96-98 percent of athletes return to the sport just fine following surgery and repair. However, we should temper our expectations once he returns as it is normal for athletes to be hesitant when coming back as a fear of that first hit to his knee will no doubt be in his mind and his burst might not be the same. In the meantime, expect to see plenty of Bale and possibly Isco out on the wing as the first sub. Once Sami is back we might see him rotate with ADM in ADM's current role while ADM serves as Bale's backup on the right.


(If there is anyone who practices medicine and is familiar with this injury, or anyone who has had first-hand experience with it, please feel free to chime in and shed some light on it because I'm about as much of a doctor as this guy is.)

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