A surgeon's insight on Devon Allen
During Oregons 35-32 loss at Nebraska last Saturday, the Ducks lost sophomore wideout Devon Allen for the season with an ACL knee injury that will require surgery.
Its a double blow for UO athletic teams. Allen is an NCAA and Olympic trials champion who placed fifth in the 110-meter hurdles at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in August.
Dr. Samuel Taylor is a sports medicine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Taylor played four years of football at Harvard and got his medical degree at Columbia. He serves as associate team physician for the New York Giants.
Taylor took part in a recent question-and-answer session about ACL surgeries with the Portland Tribune.
Tribune: It seems as the number of ACL tears in football has been on the rise in recent years. Is that true?
Taylor: While there are varying reports in literature, those numbers have been relatively stable for some time.
Tribune: Is there a general length of expected recovery time?
Taylor: Its variable. We tell patients the average time is six to nine months. The typical high-profile athlete will shoot for a return to his sport in around six months.
Tribune: I was under the impression it was longer perhaps a year.
Taylor: The question is, at what point do people see full recovery as opposed to when they are able to return and perform? For people to develop a stable knee and have a rehabilitation to the appropriate amount of strength, its usually the six-month mark. The longer you wait, though, the better. You can see gains up to a year following surgery.
Tribune: Are there varying degrees of ACL tears?
Taylor: Yes, there are. There are partial tears and complete tears, and there are tears of the ACL that are associated with injuries to other structures in the knee. A stable injury, meaning a partial injury to the ACL, is when it remains functioning. But the vast majority are complete injuries to the ACL, resulting in instability of the knee and the need to have it reconstructed. We dont repair ACLs; we reconstruct them. They tend not to heal if you try to repair them.
Tribune: Do football players make full recoveries from ACL surgery, or will they be missing something when they return to action?
Taylor: Thats a really hard question to answer. Everybody is a bit different. There is a return-to-sport rate. The percentage of people following an ACL surgery who return to playing their sport at the same level as before is not 100 percent. It is probably in the 60 to 90 percent range. The reality is not everybody gets back to playing at their previous level. That being said, its a very good operation. In general, people do very well following surgery and rehabilitation.
Tribune: What determines the level of recovery?
Taylor: Its a combination of factors. The way the surgery is performed. The way that individual heals after the surgery. The dedication to the rehab process and the physical therapy. The guidance coming from physicians and trainers to help the patient sequentially gain back the strength and stability in the knee.
Tribune: Devon Allen is a world-class hurdler. Can he be expected to make a full recovery for that sport?
Taylor: It is always our goal to get the athletes back to competing at the level they were. Its a reasonable expectation that, with the appropriate treatment, he will be able to get there.