Athletic Injuries in the Common Man

When Daunte Cupepper tears through knee ligaments, he is gone for a year after surgery. Is this because his job description involves running around? If a random person who is not a professional athlete gets the same injury is he also doomed to surgery? Or can someone with a more normal occupation “walk it off,” so to speak?

I’m not using Dante Culpepper’s injury to all three of the Cruciate Ligaments as a specific question - more looking as a general rule of thumb for how much an athletic injury that is “devestating” in terms of the pro athlete (missing considerable time from work and needed surgery) effects someone who sits behind a desk 40 hours a week.

First, IANAD.

It depends. A tear of the kind you describe would probably require surgery for anyone, since those ligaments kind of help hold the knee together. Ligaments and tendons heal very slowly as compared to bone. After such surgery one generally needs to limit stress on the area for a while to permit healing, and then generally physical therapy to strengthen the appropriate muscles.

Your ordinary Joe or Jane can probably return to a desk job while the end of this healing process goes on. Someone who has to be on his or her feet a lot would have more of a problem, and certainly a professional athlete has to be sure the healing and rehab is complete before being that active again lest the tissues be re-injured.

Also, for most of us if the injured area is not back to 100% of its former capacity it’s not a career-threatening situation. For a pro athlete it very often is.

I had a less serious injury, a torn cartilege in my knee. It would hurt a lot with certain movements. I could have elected to just live with the pain but I eventually chose to have it repaired. It took a few months of PT before I was fully functional.

Remember that a pro athlete is working at or very close to 100% all the time, even a slight injury will impare their performance and essentially make them useless. Then there’s the clauses that I imagine are in their contracts where they get paid even if they don’t play, so putting an injured guy on the field a) reduces his performance and makes him worthless and b) potentially aggrivates the injury, putting him out of operation for much longer.

I’ve torn ligaments in my shoulder and I suspect in my knee and elbow (more or less at the same time - I went to the doctor for the shoulder but not the other two which felt much the same) and was able to get back to work with no problem. I did have to take several months off of my martial arts for the shoulder and have been out about a month for the elbow/knee.

Aside from slight pain and reduced mobility (no lifting heavy things or running up stairs), I was OK and even rode my bike home.

The answer, IMO is: assuming they’re not a complete whiner, the ordinary person could be back to work the next day.

[nitpick] There are 2 cruciate ligaments in the knee joint, an anterior and a posterior. The two ligaments are in a cross-like relationship (hence, cruciate).[/nitpick]

Well, I ripped my anterior cruciate ligament 12 years ago, and never got it fixed. The orthopedic surgeon said something to the effect of “The only exercise you get is getting up to get another beer, so operating would be silly. Besides, in 7 years or so, it would be right back the way it is now.” So I did kinda “walk it off.” Lots of rehab to strengthen the muscles around the knee, but only one ligament holding it together. I am very careful not to pivot on that knee!


Nevermind… It’s two Cruciate Ligaments and two Collateral Ligaments.

I did a complete ACL tear, along with partial MCL tear and tears in both meniscus while playing basketball last July. I was completely unable to walk until the reconstruction surgery. My leg muscles (particularly my quads) would not fire at all…my orthopede said that with some catastrophic accidents, the muscles can “shut down” or somesuch. So in a similar case, as long as you could work on crutches, you wouldn’t miss work I guess. I’ve heard of other ACL tears where the people could walk around, but I could put no weight on the joint or move it at all.

There were two options on the reconstruction, I could use a cadaver ACL, or a piece of my patellar tendon. I was told the cadaver ACL would allow a quicker recovery, but for athletes who want to return to sports, they recommend the tendon. I was on crutches for 6 weeks waiting for the swelling to go down and some of the minor damage to heal, then had the surgery, then crutches for another 6. I went back in for another surgery 3 months later to remove scar tissue. Now, over a year later, I’m jogging on it again, and walk normally, but not sprinting/cutting/etc.