Diagnosing Rob Gronkowski’s Knee Injury

by Jason Ulisse December 10, 2013

Were you watching that unbelievable Patriot’s game yesterday?  Could you believe the comeback?  What tremendous excitement their game versus the Cleveland Browns provided for us all!  Unfortunately, the game provided some anxious moments for us as well.  None more scary and disappointing than when Rob Gronkowski, aka The Gronk, was tackled at the knees after making a long reception and run!

As soon as the play took  place at full speed, I did not think things looked good for The Gronk.  There were many factors that played into his injury.  First, Gronk was running a full speed and at his size, that is a lot of inertia.  Secondly, the defender trying to make the tackle was running at him at full speed and had little chance of stopping him unless he came in low to take his legs out (Otherwise The Gronk would have run him over).  A third factor was the Cleveland defender was coming on a slight angle to cut Gronk off and happened to make contact with the outside of Gronk’s knee while his foot was still planted into the turf.  All of these factors came together perfectly (or imperfectly) and created a medial stress on the knee with hyperextension resulting in a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL).  It remains to be seen if there are other structures in his knee that were damaged especially the meniscus.

While the injury looked fairly gruesome, there is hope, just not this year.  Over the past 25-30 years, tremendous strides have been made in surgical and rehabilitative procedures regarding ACL injuries.  In today’s world  ACL reconstructions are performed all of the time with tremendous success.  Once the swelling is reduced and ROM (range of motion) is re-established, an orthopedic surgeon will perform a reconstruction of the ACL.  This procedure is performed routinely in about 60-90 minutes with an arthroscope and a small incision.  The patient usually will go home on the same day as well.  That is the easy part!

After a few days to rest and ice following surgery, The Gronk will endure the hardest part, REHABILITATION!  This part is the most challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally.  At first, he will work on regaining his range of motion.  Next he will work on strength and flexibility followed by agility, power and explosiveness.  It will be several months (usually 3) before he will be allowed to jog and a total of at least six months before he is allowed to return to football activity.  Even at that point, it seems to take pro athletes close to 12 months before they completely trust the surgically repaired knee and return to full game speed.

So the good news is I think Rob Gronkowski will make a full recovery and be able to play at a similar level again.  The bad news is it may take a year before we are all privileged to watch The Gronk make amazing plays in a Patriot uniform again!

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