These 5 Famous Pro Athletes Will Inspire You With What They Achieved After Tearing Their ACL
Dealing with a Knee injury is not fun, but in this day and age, it doesn't have to be career-ending. In fact, there are some athletes who had amazing careers despite basically playing with no ACL at all.
Here's a list of some of the other-worldly athletes who did it:
1. John Elway
Hall-of-Famer John Elway is one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time. He led the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl victories, countless wins, and he helmed one of the most exciting offensive attacks that fans had ever seen during the 80s and 90s.
But did you know that Elway did all of that (and scrambled around the pocket so successfully that he often left frustrated defenders in a literal and figurative cloud of dust) on a bum ACL?
That's right, Denver's finest tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament as a high school student, and the injury was never "properly" repaired, something you wouldn't know by watching him own the gridiron on a weekly basis.
Why was Elway able to function at such a high level despite the veritable absence of an ACL? We don't know for sure. After his amazing career was over, he actually had a total knee replacement done on the knee in question.
And Elway wasn't the only one to pull of the feat of playing his career sans ACL...
2. Mickey Mantle
You might be surprised to learn that beloved Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle tore his ACL during his rookie season in a freak "Oh no I just tripped over a drainage cover at Yankee stadium" injury. In that era, we didn't yet have the modern techniques to properly repair the ACL.
Just think, the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time could have been completely ended right there. Wouldn't it have been a massive bummer if so many kids who got to see The Mick at Yankee stadium growing up were robbed of the privilege?
Forget the experience of seeing him live-- let's talk about investments. Mantle's absence certainly would have been a blow to baseball card collectors. A 1952 Micky Mantle rookie card recently topped 1 million dollars on the open market.
Luckily for us (and especially for fans of the New York Yankees) Mantle went on to become a 3 time Most Valuable Player, 7 time World Champion, and he played in the MLB All-Star Game a staggering 20 times. And oh, by the way, Mantle held the cherished home run record for years, before being usurped by Barry Bonds in the age of the "juiced ball."
All of that on an ACL that was basically non-existent. Not bad.
3. Joe Namath
Those lucky enough to have watched Joe Namath during his prime know that he was one of the most explosive and dynamic players to play the game of football before his career was derailed by a series of injuries.
What people may not know is that this must-watch Quarterback played with no ACL for almost his entire career, the result of an ACL tear that he suffered while leading the University of Alabama during his senior season.
The story is that Broadway Joe had to routinely drain his knee during halftimes because of the immense amount of fluid that built up during the game. It's not secret that an injury of this magnitude would completely end the career of most football players (at least during the era in question), but such was Joe's talent and skill on the gridiron that he was able to overcome the injury to become a transcendental figure in the sports world.
Whether you love him, hate him, or you just plain don't get him, you can't argue with the talent that Namath displayed to go with his exuberantly boisterous behavior and magnetic personality. He truly played the game with a verve and joy that made him one of the most "fun" athletes that we've ever seen.
4. Bob Lanier
Did you know that the largest shoe ever created by shoe company Allen Edmonds was a size 22? And it was for a very big man, both on and off the court - Bob Lanier.
A three-time college All-American, Lanier tore his ACL during the NCAA tournament after colliding with another player. That didn't stop him from becoming the NBA rookie of the year while embarking on a hall-of-fame career that would see him star for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks while being named to 8 NBA All-Star teams.
At the end of his career, Lanier had his number retired by both the Bucks and the Pistons, a distinct demonstration of the impact he had upon both franchises.
Not only that, but similar to the other athletes we've profiled in this article, Lanier made a huge impact both on and off the court, as explored in this article in Sports Business Daily. Unlike some of the professional athletes who exude selfishness, Lanier is a great example of a sportsman/gentleman who has touched many lives during his pro sports journey.
5. Thurman Thomas
Rounding out this rarefied list is Thurman Thomas another NFL player who shook off a bad ACL injury to become a Hall-of-Famer. Although history will remember them as perennial also-rans, the Buffalo Bills were the most consistently dominant team of one of the most exciting eras of football. They appeared in the Super Bowl four years in a row, from 1989 to 1993.
And leading the way on the ground was do-everything back Thomas, who was the NFL MVP in 1991- and the gold standard for consistency and effectiveness during the aforementioned years. This despite tearing his ACL as a college player at Oklahoma State- while playing a pickup basketball game. Ugh.
You hate to see an athlete suffer a major knee injury no matter what, but it's especially heart-wrenching when the injury occurs in college and results in a player missing his or her chance to ply their trade on the professional level. After the injury, Thomas saw his draft stock plummet, but like the other transcendent athletes on the list, he went on to have an amazing career, despite basically playing with no ACL.
OK Doc, What's The Takeaway?
All the athletes we mentioned, these 5 sports greats were able to enjoy hall-of-fame careers despite their ACL injuries. However, it doesn't take into account all the many athletes who did have their promise wrenched away by the dreaded ACL injury.
Luckily for us, we live in an era when an ACL tear isn't the end of the line. In fact, in some sports (like competitive skiing), an ACL tear is something that is just a bump in the road, not a career-ender. Like these Hall of Fame athletes, you can come back from your injury and enjoy doing the sports that you love for a long, long time.
Just make sure that you come in and see us if you tear your ACL... you don't have to grit it out like those guys did.
Get out there and have fun!