When one of the NFL’s best fell to the turf almost 15 months ago at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C. fans and NFL analysts around the country feared the worst. Some said that Adrian Peterson’s career might never be the same.
Luckily, the Vikings running back made a historic recovery and made the starting lineup for Week 1 of the 2012-2013 season. Peterson was able to put up a historic season statistically, falling just nine yards short of the NFL rushing record, making people wonder if the bar was raised for recovery and performance for future players coming back from a serious knee injury. Western New England University’s Athletic Trainer Erin Cloutier disagrees.
“Adrian Peterson did set a high standard, but I don’t believe that every athlete should strive to rush back at the rate he did. Every injury is different. Every athlete is different. A lot of factors are going to come into play when you’re talking about the recovery rate, if they had any prior injuries, what their conditioning level was at before getting injured.”
Not rushing back to the field, or court, is the approach Chicago Bulls point guard Derek Rose is currently taking. Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the first round of last year’s playoffs. The MVP has been recently criticized for his slow recovery and not wanting to rush back out on the court to help his team. Orthopedic surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, MA Dr. Leonard Wagner believes that Rose’s slow recovery is due to a variety of reasons.
“Part of all of this has to do with not only the development he can work on but in actuality how long does it take for this to really heal. Because when you do this operation the most common and the gold standard would be to get bone to heal to bone with the ligament in between and that has to do with the really the healing of the bone. So you could think everything’s great but in actuality there’s not enough time for that particular thing to heal which you don’t have much control over. Although I’ve had people return to competitive sports in high school and in college at five months, six months, the earliest was four months… The end result of all of that is the thought is it really takes up to a year to get this actuality to heal.”
Recently, there have been multiple serious knee injuries in major American sports, from Peterson and Rose to Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. As frequent as these injuries may seem, the multitude of all of them are more fluke than anything else according to Dr. Wagner.
"I think part of it is, that the public becomes a little bit more tuned in and these are high profile players. People have been tearing out their ACLs for a long time and have been having them fixed.”
As these injuries become more frequent, it’s important to remember that everybody is different and reacts differently to injury. Even though Adrian Peterson is an example of a successful recovery from a major knee injury, he is not necessarily a template for players to model their rehabilitation after when trying to make a comeback.
"It’s tough to say that because every athlete is different," Cloutier says. "Nobody is going to heal like somebody else. You can have an ACL injury in one athlete and an ACL injury in another athlete and they can be completely different.”