ACL injuries, Cause for Concern?
Several years ago a torn anterior cruciate ligament would spell doom for just about any athlete, but thanks to recent advancements in modern medicine it usually costs the sufferer six to nine months rather than a career. With the recent news about sophomore linebacker Michael Mauti possibly tearing his ACL and likely missing all of the 2009 season, another Nittany Lion and particularly a linebacker, has gone down with an injury that has become all to common in Happy Valley.
Thinking back through the recent slew of stand out Penn State linebackers, all of them have had some form of a torn ACL or partial tear during their time in college or shortly there after. Paul Posluszny in the 2006 Orange Bowl exited the game after suffering a partial tear from a helmet to knee hit from Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker, leading to off-season rehab before his senior season. Dan Connor, after leaving Penn State unscathed, missed out on his rookie season in the NFL after he tore his ACL during a Carolina Panthers game while playing on special teams.
And just over a year ago, the next in line to take over the all-time tackles lead at PSU, Sean Lee suffered a similar injury during spring practice and was forced to sit out all of the 2008 season. Add to that DE/LB Jerome Hayes who has torn the ACL in each knee during the previous two years as well as DE Pete Massarro and you have a series of Lions all being afflicted with the same ailment.
The question then becomes is Penn State doing enough to prevent injuries which have become commonplace in college football? Given both the track record of team orthopaedic surgeon Wayne Sebastianelli as well as several opinions he has offered on the subject, it is clear that the Nittany Lions have taken measures to prevent these type of injuries. Plus add to that the remarkable recovery of his patients, who have returned to the game without missing a beat during the past few seasons and confidence must be given to Dr. Sebastianelli.
Next would be concerns over off-season practices and scrimmages, which often lead to tears as well as various other injuries. Cutting down on the number scrimmages or number of drills would certainly lessen the injuries, however it would also have the anticipated effect of a less prepared football team once the fall arrives.
It only seems logical to chalk up the various torn ACLs that have become rampant at Linebacker U to bad luck, moving forward with the hope that more players are not afflicted in the seasons to come.
As for the situation in 2009, the Nittany Lions should be able to handle the loss of Mauti as the linebacker unit may be one of the deepest in college football. Consider the fact that if Mauti were healthy and did earn the starting nod as some projected, then the bench would consist of former starter Josh Hull, promising junior Bani Gbadyu, special teams beast Nathan Stupar and a string of highly touted recruits anxious to get on the field. Considering Mauti will likely miss time, the Lions will now open with a linebacking corps that will consist of two All-American candidates and one former walk-on turned starter.