Playing Without an ACL


Dan Feldman of PistonPowered spoke with Dr. Ben Wedro of MD Direct about professional athletes playing without an ACL.

Some background from Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop:

In high school, Blair tore both of his ACLs and had them surgically repaired. Blair’s scar tissue essentially got re-absorbed by his body and the result left Blair with essentially no ACLs.

Although he’s suffered no adverse effects ever since, Blair’s is an unprecedented injury and one that scared off a slew of NBA executives. Though Blair literally has no ACL to tear, some team physicians feel that Blair could eventually develop a nagging issue that could wear him down a few years down the road.

Here’s Dr. Wedro’s assessment:

The ACL’s job is to be one of the knee stabilizers in the anterior-posterior direction, that is preventing the tibia or shin bone from sliding frontwards or backwards in relation to the femur or thigh bone. This is especially important in quick stops and starts. If there is no ACL, then the quadriceps and hamstring muscles need to take over the stabilization role. Good knee stability should be able to be maintained as long as the quads and hams remain strong and in balance.

There are examples of pro athletes who have played with absent ACLs including Philip Rivers in a playoff game for the Chargers. Marty Barrett played with the Red Sox without an ACL and I presume that there are many athletes who did not know of the injury or chose not to disclose it for fear of cutting their career short.

I appreciate Feldman’s work in this area, but a I can’t help but wonder why nearly thirty medical staffs advised their employers to pass on Blair?

Still, I’d be fine with DeJuan Blair had the Spurs moved to 15 and selected him there, guaranteed salary and all. In fact, I’d still wear the same grin from ear to ear. The Spurs’ window is 33 years old and time has come to go all-in. Moving up would have made Blair a high risk/high reward selection. But getting him at 37? What are you risking? $880,000? That’s a drop in the bucket.  I’m convinced that no fewer than 6 teams erred by siding with caution on draft night.  What does Bill Simmons say N.B.A. stands for?

  • rocko.texas

    Or as John Hollinger stated on Twitter (although it sounds like something Bill Simmons would have said), “Did DeJuan Blair bring a hooker and a bag of coke to his workouts? There’s no “risk” when you’re picking this late.”

    I have a feeling that some GM’s are already regretting being so cautious (especially in the second round), because the downside is just so minimal.

  • Timothy Varner


  • duaneofly

    What I don’t get is: The Blazers took a huge risk with the #1 draft pick, choosing Oden over Durant (big mistake imo), yet they wouldn’t take a risk on Blair with an early second round pick?
    Just seems weird to me is all, with Oden being injured in college, and remembering Bowie over Jordan, not that Durant is going to be as good as Jordan, but I’m sure you guys catch my drift.

  • Matt Steele

    Quite honestly, I don’t understand how the Cavs didn’t take him. Isn’t that what they need? A young energetic 4 who can rebound? I mean I loved their Danny Green pick but they could have had Green and Blair.

    Oh well, I”m very excited that the Spurs got him!

    I’m also not surprised that there is such high turnover for some GMs in the NBA… I mean just look at some of the poor decisions in the draft

  • ThatBigGuy

    N.B.A. = No Balls Association. Or No Benjamins Association. But I’m leaning toward the No Balls Association for the lack of testicular fortitude shown by other organizations.

  • Phoebus

    duaneofly: pritchard’s rep is already fading fast, and will pick up speed as more blazer fans realize they’ve got themselves a perennial also-ran that’ll never win a ring. you don’t win a ring w/o one of the best 5 guys in the league. roy is only gonna sniff that territory a few times. durant will live there. (yeah, you can tell i’m from austin, i guess.)

    blair is so huge, so awesome. i’d still like to know: everyone says buford’s next move is a good MLE big man. does this change that? how? who is the extra piece? can they be had for the MLE?

    can it be Sheed preeez??

  • este

    A lot of folks are lobbying for Sheed to come play for the MLE. I think R.C. & Pop are going to make an offer to the other Piston big man Antonio McDyess.

  • rikiddo

    Hey Tim,

    Rasheed Wallace was rumored to be in San Antonio today. Do you think the Spurs have a realistic shot at him?

  • Samuel

    At this point, doesn’t it seem like Rasheed would be one variable too many?

    I vote no thanks.

  • muwu

    Rasheed’s done, no point in him coming to us, would only be a distraction. But the Spurs do seem pretty good now.

    Only question is, will Pop trust any of the new guys enough to play them decent minutes instead of burying them in the bench as he always does? New year, new team, it calls for new approaches as well Pop

  • Mark

    The thing about Sheed is he makes Bonner redundant. Sign Sheed, then try to trade Bonner & Finley (if he picks up the option) for ?

  • mla2131

    John Elway played college and pro ball without an ACL in one knee.

    That said, The Kryptonian also played with a detached biceps in his final two years (the Super Bowl years), so he may not be a fair comparison for Blair. ; )

  • Phoebus

    Of course Sheed’s fading. But how is McDyess any better? If a championship is the goal, it goes through the lakers. and no one can guard Odom or Ariza right now.

  • lvmainman

    Rasheed Wallace would be the perfect fit for the Spurs. A 2nd twin tower ala Robinson than can make 3’s. People said Horry (@ the time my 2nd choice was Donyell Marshall, thank goodness that didn’t work out) was done, especially after the Lakers playoff performance, but he got 2 rings with the Spurs.

    Rasheed can rebound better, play d better, post up better, make clutch shots better and probably pass better than Bonner. All the Spurs would have to do is give the majority of minutes to Bonner in the regular season and have Rasheed get the most in the playoffs.

    The depth and quality of the Spurs offseason should get Popovich to think of playing 10 or 11 players a night to save the wear and tear on the veterans like Duncan, Ginobili, and a possible Rasheed. Even get to a guaranteed minute schedule, like for instance, Mason and Wallace(if signed) get the 1st 6 minutes of the 1st and 2nd qtr and Ginobili and Bonner get the last 6 minutes of the 1st and 2nd qtr. Or Hill and Blair get the last 3 minutes of the 1st qtr and 1st 3 of the 2nd qtr. Then 2nd half based on game matchups. That way the the players go to each game prepared to play. And maybe the Spurs will start games going all out knowing there are x amount of minutes to be played in the 1st half.

  • lvmainman

    That way rookies and 2nd or 3rd year players get guaranteed playing time during the year on a constant basis. That way Hill, Blair, Mahinmi, can grow. Maybe none of them play the 2nd half of a game, maybe all 3 do, or just 1. But it seems like the depth of Spurs should get some sort of consistency in playing time in my opinion. Also vets like Bowen last yr don’t get shut out of games. Maybe after the all-star break or after the rodeo trip revise the schedule or abandon the set minutes. But, I think Popovich needs to consider something to save wear and tear on vets and give younger players some PT. I think a set minute schedule for the 1st half of games might help.

  • duhoh

    No Balls Association

  • Will

    What I find funny is that giving a proven failure like Jerome James $5m per year is fine for most GMs, but chancing $0.8m on Blair is “risky”. No wonder they’re losing.

    This being said, and assuming Blair could get some significant minutes in SA straight away, isn’t there a decent chance that he could end up ROY?

  • BD22

    I’ve been an athlete all my life and tore 1 ACL about 8 years ago and the other about 4 years ago.  On both occasions I did NOT have surgery and as the swelling calmed down started doing regular physical therapy.  These were both complete tears. I’m currently still playing Division 1 rugby and have not had a problem with any stability.  I’m very thankful that I did not have surgery and have still maintained my speed and lateral agility. There are a few other athletes that are playing professional sports without them.  As you know rugby has a high level of contact and it doesn’t bother me one bit.  

  • Jkll

    Do you wear a brace? Our son tore his for a second time and has decided to rehab his knee and play his senior year of soccer. Any advice? It is a complete tear, too.