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RGlll and His Knee: Did the Washington Redskins Play Him with a Torn ACL?

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RGlll and His Knee: Did the Washington Redskins Play Him with a Torn ACL?
Al Bello/Getty Images
Did RGlll play with a torn ACL?

Robert Griffin lll—the NFL Rookie of the Year, No. 2 draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner—has undergone a successful primary repair of his right lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and a repeat anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.

The future for one of the most dynamic, talented and exciting QBs in the NFL is uncertain. Surely football fans are hopeful he will have an excellent recovery and return next season as good as ever.

As an athlete and physician myself who has twice undergone ACL reconstruction, I saw the signs RGlll had a badly injured, probably torn ACL when he took the field in the playoffs and felt he should have been benched. The decision to play him may well have compromised the future of the franchise QB.

Griffin suffered at least two injuries to his right knee during the season, and there is considerable controversy about whether or not he should have played in that fateful last playoff game. Clearly hobbled and limping with a bulky knee brace, Griffin insisted he could play, and coach Mike Shanahan gave the go ahead.

It has been widely reported that the team orthopedic surgeon was not sufficiently involved in the decision and did not agree. The telltale sign that he had a significant internal derangement was during his last game was that he was not fully extending his knee when walking or running.

When you have a torn ACL, your body simply does not allow full extension; it's a reflex protective mechanism. If you have had an ACL tear, you know what I mean.

The complete timeline of his injuries and controversy were well documented in B/R.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Maintaining the knee flexed when walking can be a sign of a torn ACL

Despite the fact that knee surgery has come a long way in recent years, complete recovery is by no means certain. Not very long ago, injuries like these were career ending.

Adrian Peterson's recovery notwithstanding, such dramatic results are not the norm. For most folks undergoing major knee ligament reconstruction, the prospects range from 100 percent recovery to something much less than that.

Griffin's injury is much worse than Peterson's. First of all, he tore two ligaments. Secondly, this is his second ACL reconstruction. Every time the knee is violated, full recovery is a little harder. Reconstructed ACLs are not as strong the native ligament. The intensity and quality of his rehab is crucial.

Peterson's recovery is extraordinary, and hopefully, RGlll will have a similar and equally successful rehab.

One final point about athletes and their ACLs. The denial factor is enormous. Just like Booby Miles in the film Friday Night Lights, you think you can play. Not until you plant that foot and try to pivot or drive off it do you realize your thigh bone (femur) is no longer connected to the shin bone (tibia).

The reality that your ACL is gone comes over you slowly. That's when acceptance occurs and the road to recovery begins.

Good luck with your rehab, RGlll. We are all rooting for you. As for coaches, a word of advice. Listen to the doctor, not the athlete!

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