EJ Manuel showed some real potential in training camp and at the beginning of the 2013 pre-season. Manuel had the starting job in his grasp when a knee injury arose. It was the first of three knee injuries that plagued his rookie year.
Were these injuries a case of being injury prone or just unlucky?
The first injury occurred on August 16, 2013 in the 20-16 pre-season win against the Minnesota Vikings. Manuel had swelling in his left knee and he underwent a minor procedure according to the team. It turned out that Manuel needed to have some floating or loose meniscus removed. Among knee injuries, this is a fairly minor one to have, but once you have surgery, you’ve had surgery. Rarely do meniscal repairs result in lingering pain or limited function, but the next time you take a hit to the same knee, you are more susceptible to re-injury. Also, the more times you re-injure the same knee, the more susceptible you are to developing arthritis in the joint.
In week 5 of the regular season, Manuel suffered his second knee injury. This came in a Thursday Night Football game against the Browns. Manuel took a helmet to the right knee and was diagnosed with a LCL sprain. On December 15th against the Jaguars, Manuel suffered his third and last knee injury: a sprained left knee. This injury led to a second procedure for Manuel, which he said was a meniscus tear.
What exactly is an LCL sprain and meniscal tear?
The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) are two of four ligaments in the knee that provide stability to the knee joint, along with the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). The MCL is located on the inner side of the knee and the LCL is located on the outer side and these two ligaments work to control the side-to-side stability of the knee joint. When the MCL or LCL is injured, it can result in a sprain, partial tear, or full tear depending on the severity. MCL injuries occur from an impact to the outer side of the knee, while LCL injuries are more likely from a trauma to the inner side of the knee. Surgery is more likely in LCL injuries than MCL injuries, since the ligament does not heal as easily, and surgery for MCL injuries is rare. For those injuries requiring surgery, rehabilitation is needed to increase strength and flexibility. In some cases, a brace will need to be worn to keep the knee joint stable and to prevent further re-injury.
A meniscal tear occurs when there is a partial or full tear in one of the two cartilage discs located within the knee joint. The meniscus helps balance the body weight across the knee so that it is evenly distributed among the bones in your legs. One meniscus is located along the inner edge of the knee (medial meniscus) and the other is located along the outer edge (lateral meniscus). Meniscus tears are a very common knee injury, especially in athletes.
When surgery is required, the person typically undergoes a rehab program following the procedure to increase strength and mobility in the knee. With a proper rehabilitation program, including physical therapy as well as home exercises, most patients should be able to regain the strength and flexibility needed to get back to pre-injury activities. By making the knee stronger, the chance of further injury or degeneration in the joint is also reduced.
Some people feel that these injuries are career threatening. However, oftentimes it is not one injury that ends, or limits a career. Once the injury occurs it’s usually season ending because it can take 6 to 12 weeks for the injury to heal and that’s with a partial tear.
So what’s next?
After one or two injuries, you start to wonder if it was just bad luck or if, in fact, Manuel is injury-prone. There have been debates throughout the 2013 season as to whether or not Manuel is prone to injury. We all remember, sadly, the days of Rob Johnson, where he seemingly got hurt every time he hit the ground. Nobody wants to be labeled as injury-prone, weak, soft, or any other term used to describe a player who seems to get hurt so often. Although Doug Marrone feels that Manuel is not injury-prone, others dispute this by looking at the trend thus far.
From here on out, Manuel will wear a knee brace on his left knee. Many players wear one for protection alone, but some are able to play better than others when in a brace. Braces are never ideal, but this may be the only way Manuel will be able to avoid further injuries to his knee.
For now, I believe it’s safe to say Manuel was unlucky in his rookie season. However, if a pattern of injuries continue to occur to Manuel’s knees or to other body parts, I am afraid even I will be inclined to label him as an injury prone quarterback with some really bad luck.