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Star Tribune Interviews Dr. Mandelbaum About Why ACL Injuries Are Not Career Killers

Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, a Santa Monica-based orthopedic surgeon and ACL injury prevention researcher at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute, also said players who tear their ACL are 10 times more likely to tear the same ACL again, or tear the ACL in their opposite knee.

“You can make a difference by training what we call neuromuscular control,” Mandelbaum said. “One of the things we talk about with athletes is, they can be big, they can be strong, they can be fast and powerful, but if they don’t have the capability of good steering, just like an IndyCar — it’s big, fast, goes zero to 60 in two-some seconds — but if your steering is tight, you bang into the wall.”

Mandelbaum cautioned there’s a much wider spectrum of severity with ACL tears than the public typically acknowledges. Noncontact injuries, like Cook’s, tend to be less severe because there’s not as much force bearing on the knee as if a player was hit when he tears his ACL.

“The energy of the injury equals one-half of mass times velocity squared,” Mandelbaum said. “So the higher, bigger, faster injuries, the more energy translates to more tissue damage. All those variables are directly related to everything from how quickly you get back to how much needs to get fixed, to the amount of consequent arthritis that occurs down the road.”

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