We all reach an age in our life where we are too old to trick-or-treat. Halloween becomes less about dressing up with your friends and walking around the neighborhood for free candy, and becomes more about dressing up with your friends and going to the bars for drinks. Naturally, in order to maximize our enjoyment, the weekend preceding Halloween becomes an entire weekend dedicated to the October holiday – it’s often dubbed Halloweekend. This year, October 27 and 28 were Halloweekend and the scariest thing I saw all weekend was Marcus Lattimore’s knee injury
Despite the constant fear of head trauma, most of us still enjoy watching “knock out” shots in football. Sure, one of the players might’ve sustained a concussion, but seeing the dude get lit up (and not dying) is a guilty pleasure. There is one type of hit that nobody likes seeing: the “blow out” hit. As in, “Holy s#!@, Marcus Lattimore just blew out his knee.”
I watched the clip of Lattimore’s injury from South Carolina’s game against Tennessee over and over again. I showed it to my coworkers; I showed it to friends. Hell, my dad even texted me asking if I’d seen it. Never once while watching the replay could I keep myself from cringing and yet I continued to watch and share. It’s not that I enjoyed watching the clip. It was because I had never seen something similar – my dad could only compare it to Joe Theismann breaking his leg. One thing is certain though, after my first viewing and after my last viewing my reaction was still the same: it was the worst knee injury I’ve ever seen…ever.
It’s no surprise then to hear about the outpouring of support from coaches, players and fans, for Lattimore as he deals with his second significant knee injury in two years. I feel we as fans are often more sympathetic toward players who injure their knees than we are toward players who suffer concussions. There are two reasons why:
- A knee injury is visible and often results in the knee bending the wrong direction. We all witness the injury and generally know the severity immediately. Whereas a concussion is internal, and sometimes people might not believe the player is as hurt as he or the trainers indicate.
- Knee injuries can happen to anybody at any time, regardless of age. In general, a person can skirt concussions their whole life. But, that person could also tear their ACL going on a morning jog or maybe stepping off the curb awkwardly when crossing the street.
When Lattimore lay on the ground and the trainers held him down and prevented him from looking at his knee, the look on his face was enough to make a grown man cry. It was raw emotion from a man who this season was returning from left-knee reconstruction. I imagine what really tormented him was that he knew what lie ahead. The surgery, the rehab, the lifetime of knee aches and pains, believe me I’ve seen it all time and time again.
Next August, three of my groomsmen will walk down the aisle at my wedding on reconstructed knees, two of whom have blown out both knees. I’d like to quickly recount the six knee injuries suffered by three of my groomsmen and former teammates at Western, none of which involved serious blows to the knee.
My buddy Tyler was the first of my friends to blow out his knee. Tyler’s first injury occurred during fall practice freshman year of college. He was the scout team tailback and took a toss running to his right. Our defensive end pursued Tyler and grabbed the jersey on Tyler’s left shoulder. A slight tug from the defensive end as Tyler planted his left foot on the Astroturf was more than Tyler’s left knee could take. BOOM! Blown out knee.
Only a couple months later, when the season was over, my buddy Matt was playing indoor soccer. On a routinely play, Matt awkwardly planted his left leg and hyper-extended his left knee. BOOM! Torn ACL, MCL, Lateral Meniscus.
We always used to joke that Matt’s and Tyler’s knees were somehow connected. It seemed that whenever one on them would injure his knee, the other would be laid up in a matter of weeks.
A couple years later, Matt’s Western football career was over but not his athletic career so he took up rugby. Matt was shifty and quick, despite one bad knee, and a great rugger. Then one game he received a high lateral, jumped in the air going to his right to catch the ball. When he landed, Matt tried to plant on his right leg and cut back to his left all in one motion. BOOM! ACL, MCL, Lateral Meniscus.
Tyler’s second knee injury took place spring quarter of junior year, the same year as Matt’s second injury. Tyler was now playing outside linebacker and during our first spring scrimmage, he was lined up at left outside linebacker. The offense ran a play-action screen to the fullback where the wide receiver to Tyler’s left, comes down and blocks the outside linebacker. On the play-action, Tyler moved toward the line of scrimmage and the moment he planted his left foot to cut back to his left and cover the fullback he is blocked by the wide receiver. BOOM! Blown out knee.
Two years removed from his second knee injury, remember both injuries were to his left knee, Tyler has rehabbed to the point where his knee is basically fully healthy. One Sunday morning he’s playing contact flag football with me and a group of friends and we put him back to return a punt. As he’s running up field he stutter-steps to juke a player and then just comes to a stop. BOOM! Blown out knee.
It was spring quarter senior year when my buddy Ace tore his ACL. Those of us who remained at Western after the cancellation of the football program suddenly had a free quarter to play intramural flag football. In the first round of the playoffs, Ace is playing cornerback when he goes back to defend a deep pass one-on-one. As the ball is lofted into the air on the cold, rainy evening, Ace turns to find the ball. As he does so, the receiver gives him a slight push on the shoulder. BOOM! Blown out knee.It seems that since October of my freshman year in college, I have always had a friend rehabbing a severe knee injury. After seeing what my three friends have gone through, I am thankful I still have two healthy knees and have never suffered a debilitating injury. Even as I write this my knees tingle. It’s like I’m either foreshadowing a significant knee injury or am just paranoid of jinxing myself on Halloween.
The reason knee injuries are so devastating to watch is because we all know that as we age our knees deteriorate by default. Most of us don’t even want to think about expediting the process as a young age, and if we do, there’s no way of knowing how we would deal with the incapacitation.
Incredibly it appears that the quality of rehabilitation and recovery from serious knee injuries is improving at the NFL and NCAA level. But without the proper training and medical attention, not to mention health insurance, recovering from knee injuries can be a time-consuming task.
I hope then that as the NFL, the NCAA and medical professionals continue to research concussion prevention, that they also research how to best stabilize the knee and possibly prevent these serious injuries. Yes, concussions can be debilitating long-term, but so too can knee injuries. Don’t believe me? Ask Marcus Lattimore in three years, when he’s out of football because of two bad knees.