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  • Writer's pictureJay Kasthuriarachchi

Examples of Athletes Who Successfully Returned to Sport Without an ACL

Updated: May 3

For many people, rupturing their ACL can be the most traumatic (non- life threatening) injury you can sustain. Many believe that their only option is to get surgery.


Non- operative ACL rehab is genuine option in many people. You can read more about this type of rehab here.


Here are some examples of elite level athletes that have successfully returned to sport.

Please note that this option is not suitable for everyone. Get in contact with us to see if this rehab option is an appropriate one for you

  1. Peter Wallace

Peter Wallace was an international level rugby league halfback, who played for the Penrith Panthers, the Brisbane Broncos, NSW Blues, and Scotland.


Probably the most suprising factor about Peter Wallace's case, is that not only did he play for two years without an ACL...he didn't even know he had ruptured it. This is probably not as suprising as you may think. As we outlined in our blog post, signs and symptoms of an ACL rupture you can actually not have any pain a few minutes after the rupture in some instances.


2. Alou Diarra

Alou Diarra was a French international footballer who played for West Ham United FC in the English Premier League.


The coolest part about Alou Diarra's case is not only did he return to play football at the highest level after tearing his ACL... he did it with 8 weeks of rehab.


Diarra's injury really highlights the best part about going through non- operative ACL. You can actually come back from the injury much much faster compared to going through injury. JaytheSportsPhysio wrote a blog post about Diarra's case a while ago, outlining some of the factors that could have influenced Diarra's decition to go down this route



3. Connor McGregor


Believe or not, McGregor actually ruptured his ACL once, and did a significant tear another time.


The first time, was during a fight in 2013. During the fight, McGregor said he heard a 'pop' in the 2nd round against Max Halloway. Despite this, he went on to win that bout.


Then again in 2015, 14 weeks before his fight against Chad Mendes, McGregor said he had tore 80% of his ACL. He continued onto the bout (which he ended up losing). The key thing is however was that he was able to compete with an ACL that was essentially torn.



4. Joe Namath


Unless your an avid NFL fan, you might not know who Joe Namath is. Joe Namath was an NFL quaterback, who primarily played for the New York Jets.


Back in the 60's, an ACL rupture was potentially career ending. There were simply no surgical options. Unfortunately for Namath, he actually ruptured his ACL while he was in college. Incredibly, he played of the bench the next week, missed two more games, and then played a week after that. Later on that same year, he was drafted into the NFL.


So Namath had only one option - Brace it up for a few weeks, then keep going.


And keep going he did. He was inducted to the NFL hall of fame in 1985.


Conclusion


If you look closely, most of these examples have a common thread - the athletes were all in the their 30's, towards the end of the career.


From our experience, these are the athletes who would mostly benefit from a non- operative approach. At this age, your body has matured, you probably have been doing gym work for a while and have a good baseline of strength, and you don't really have time for a lengthy (9- 12 month) rehab.


But everyone is different. Make sure you get a good rehab team (Specialist, physio, and a strength and conditioning coach) around you.


In our clinic, we have seen more ACL's than we care to count. All approaches (surgical or conservative) have their pros and con's.


Want to learn more about ACL injuries and our work in the space? Check out our new ACL specific website here


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