MINNEAPOLIS - Injuries are a part of sports; always have been and always will be. But when three of Minnesota's brightest stars go down within three months of each, all with the same injury, it kind of makes sports fans wonder. What's going on? Three superstars heard the same three dreaded letters: ACL (anterior cruciate ligament, which connects the tibia and femur).
Three decent and promising seasons, torn in an instant.
"Usually it happens at a time when you're not suspecting it. You plant and pivot, your knee gives away and you have an ACL tear. It's very unexpected at times," Dr. Steven Meisterling of St. Croix Orthopaedics explained, before noting that technical advancements have athletes returning to full strength within six to 12 months of the injury.
"I knew something bad would happen," Gopher Basketball Superstar and NBA hopeful Trevor Mbakwe said. "When you hear the doctor say you tore your ACL, it's heartbreaking," the senior post player said. Mbakwe, who has a game built on athleticism and power, tore his knee apart in late November. Ever since, he's been quietly working his tail off in the basement of Williams Arena. "It's challenging, it's hard. A lot of people will doubt that I'll be able to get my athleticism back or jump as high as before and that's kind of been my motivation to prove people wrong."
Across town, Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson also has something to prove. He tore his ACL on Christmas Eve. Rehab has been no holiday for the best back in football. Trainers have actually had to tell AP to dial it down a little bit and remain patient. "When I'm out here and I'm working and I'm pushing myself, and I see myself getting tired, that's helping me take the steps to get to where I need to be," he told KARE 11.
In early March, as the Minnesota Timberwolves looked to march toward the playoffs, rookie sensation Ricky Rubio tore his ACL. He'll split his rehab between Minneapolis and Spain. "We can do nothing else but look forward because we can do nothing about it," the hopeful point guard told the media.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 150,000 ACL injuries occur every year in the U.S. Studies have also shown the injury is four to seven times more prevalent in women athletes; Minnesota Lynx standout Seimone Augustus tore her knee ligament in 2009.
But you don't have to be an elite athlete to suffer from this injury. KARE 11 Reporter Scott Seroka tore his ACL playing basketball in late January. His trainer, Dan Teece of Larsen Physical Therapy in Hudson told him the rehab "is actually pretty intensive."
Teece says he's been busy helping people return to sports following ACL rips. "Unfortunately we're seeing younger individuals having that ACL reconstruction. I think maybe it's just that kids are more active at this point," he explained.
Year round training can take its toll and age can too. "But the good news is based on the research and the surgical techniques being done at this time, people are really able to get back to their normal level fairly quickly," Teece said.
Whether its coincidence or some sort of trend, the 3 Minnesota stars who suffered ACL tears have vowed to be back for the start of their next seasons and they promise to be new and improved. They seem both internally and externally built for comebacks. "That's been a blessing for me and I feel that's going to help me come back better than ever," Adrian Peterson concluded after a punishing work out.
Trevor Mbakwe agreed. "I don't think I'll have any problem getting back to where I was, or even better," he said with a smile.
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