Saturday, March 22, 2008

Trainers Talk ACL

Talked to two of the athletic trainers still here in Tampa – Western Kentucky's Mike Gaddie and San Diego's Carolyn Greer – about ACL injuries in general. Both have seen numerous ACL tears in their respective tenures – Gaddie had two basketball players suffer the injury this season (his ninth at WKU); in one of Greer's 30 years at USD, she had 11 different football players with torn ACLs.

Without knowing the exact specifics of A.J. Price's injury, both agree with UConn director of sports medicine Jeffrey Anderson's assertion that Price's rehab time to full game-action clearance will be about six months.

Here's what they had to say:

Mike Gaddie, assistant athletic trainer, Western Kentucky:

(on the typical rehab timetable for an ACL injury)
"It takes about a six-month period, and that is just a rehab-general guideline period. The advantage athletes have is that most of them are very strong, they're very healthy, and they have a great determination and a goal. Obviously, they have something they're trying to work back to. There is a medical period when the surgery has to heal, the body has to heal, and the body has to recover at its time. Typically, six months is when they're back at full-go. Some people say four months, we usually go about a six-month time period from the time of surgery.

(on how an athlete can maintain his conditioning during the rehab process)
If you're talking about basketball specifics, the No. 1 thing for us to do is try to simulate basketball because of the conditioning and cardiovascular side of that. Our guys do as much cardiovascular as we can – a lot of swimming, it's a great exercise because it works everything. You can't simulate running up and down the floor, that's one of the toughest things … Usually after about 2 ½ months, we've got them on a pretty steady weight room (regimen), balancing, jumping, all those kind of things. Not exactly like their other teammates, but they're pretty close to it.

(on the actual surgical procedure)
It's a reconstruction. Different physicians have different techniques. Some take a part of the patella tendon, which is in their own body, and they re-insert that back into the same position that the old ACL came out. Some use part of the hamstring tendon, some also use donor graphs that are harvested. That's physician preference, and also based upon the athlete and what their history is.

(on his experience with players at WKU)
Since I've been doing this at Western, knock on wood, in men's basketball specifically, I've never had a guy who's not returned and played their full season. I'm fortunate, I guess. Every kid that we've had, male and female, has always come back. I'm sure there's some cases out there where they haven't come back, I would say that those cases are probably not related to the ACL. It's just a traumatic injury, physically-wise they're going to come back. The mental side of athletics is a huge thing. Most kids are mentally tough, mentally strong, so they're able to overcome it.

(on whether he'd venture to guess that Price will be back)
In general, yes. I do not know, I don't want to specifically comment on that. I'm sure their staff is superb, and they're going to do whatever. As far as our guys, six months is the window we look at. I would think that would be reasonable, but each athlete is different … You have no reason to believe that that young man won't be back in six months. Again, that's speculation, obviously. I'm sure that's where they're heading.

Carolyn Greer, University of San Diego athletic trainer:

(on the severity of an ACL injury)
"It really depends on if there's any other pathology in the knee joint. You hope that it's just an isolated ACL tear. It sounds bad, but you hope it's just an ACL. Then the course of rehabilitation, if he also has meniscal damage, that could make the course of rehab longer and more difficult."

(on how long the rehab process normally takes)
The technology and the surgery is so much better than 15 or 20 years ago. The chances are coming back from an isolated ACL – good surgeon, good course of recovery, you've got a great athletic trainer in James Doran who'll rehabilitate him – I think you'll find six months, maybe a little longer, when he can return to play.

For more extensive coverage on Price's injury, check out tomorrow's New Haven Register


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