View Full Version : How Marcus Lattimore Can Return from Injury to Take the NFL by Storm

02-13-2013, 12:30 PM
How Marcus Lattimore Can Return from Injury to Take the NFL by Storm

Dave Siebert

Last October, star University of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore went down with one of the worst knee injuries the sports world has ever seen. In the days that followed, it would have been easy to think his career over—another sobering reminder that injuries are a part of football.

Yet this one felt different. The outpouring of support began immediately. After becoming a sure lock for the early rounds of the NFL draft, Lattimore's career was supposed to end years from now following a successful, multiple-year stint in the pros.

Believe it or not, it still can.

At the time, however, it didn't seem fair. A 21 year-old budding superstar is not supposed to suffer one career-threatening knee injury, much less two—Lattimore tore his left ACL in 2011. He also shouldn't have to work through months of grueling rehab once, let alone twice.

Unfortunately, that is where Lattimore stands today, as according to a report by Geoff Hobson of the Cincinnati Bengals' official website, he suffered tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee on the play.

The clip of the injury makes it clear why the damage turned out to be so significant. Be advised that the video is quite graphic:

Slow-motion replay shows a direct blow to Lattimore's right knee, causing it to buckle under the weight of two Tennessee defenders.

The result of the play was a knee dislocation—an injury defined as the complete displacement of the tibia, or shin bone, in relation to the femur, or thigh bone, with simultaneous rupture of at least three of the four main stabilizing ligaments of the knee. Lattimore's medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the only ligament that remained intact.

For a better—but not entirely anatomically correct—mental picture of Lattimore's dislocation, imagine attaching the ends of two rectangular blocks using four pieces of tape—one on each side. Now, cut three of those four pieces. The resulting instability of the blocks is not unlike the state of the leg following a knee dislocation.

To make matters worse, knee dislocations pose a serious threat to the popliteal artery—the primary blood supply for the lower leg. If the knee's normal anatomy is altered drastically enough, the artery can be compressed or torn. Without a functioning popliteal artery, the lower leg can die within several hours unless a vascular surgeon emergently repairs the vessel once the knee is reduced.

Fortunately, popliteal artery damage did not occur in Lattimore's case, and he "only" required the surgical reconstruction of his three torn ligaments. In early November, Drs. Jeffrey Guy, Lyle Cain and James Andrews performed the operation, deemed it a success and discounted the need for any future procedures.

Though exact details are not available, speculation suggests that the surgery likely consisted of using tissue grafts from places such as Lattimore's patellar tendon—the part of the knee a doctor hits with a reflex hammer—to replace the ruptured ligaments.

Now three months out from surgery, Lattimore is well on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, his rehabilitation this time around will be significantly more complicated than what he went through following his 2011 ACL tear. A brief review of the functions of the four main knee ligaments shows why that is:

ACL: connects the flat ends of the femur and tibia, preventing the tibia from moving forward or twisting inward in relation to the thigh
PCL: connects the flat ends of the femur and tibia, preventing the tibia from moving backward in relation to the thigh
LCL: connects the outside of the femur to the fibula—a small bone running alongside the tibia—preventing the knee from buckling outward
MCL: connects the inside of the femur to the inside of the tibia, preventing the knee from buckling inward

When all intact, the ACL, PCL, MCL and LCL work in concert to allow for stability and balance while performing complex and dynamic movements such as sprinting, changing directions and cutting.

Following his 2011 injury, Lattimore had other intact ligaments within his knee to support his ACL graft as his body cemented it into place.

This time, he doesn't.

For that reason, Marcus will have to be patient—more so than ever before. The slow, steady progression from range of motion drills to strengthening exercises to full contact practice will likely require upwards of an entire year.

That said, as of Jan. 22, his progress is already staggering.

For several reasons, we shouldn't be surprised. First and foremost, Lattimore's 2012 injury is not to the same knee as his prior ACL tear, an injury from which he returned both quickly and strongly.

Additionally, there is prior precedent of successful return from such an injury. Current Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee was taken with the 23rd pick of the 2003 NFL Draft after suffering a similar injury—tears of his ACL, PCL and MCL—during the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. After sitting out the entire 2003 NFL season, McGahee became—and remains—a solid starting running back.

Finally, Dr. Andrews' track record speaks for itself. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson nearly broke the all-time single-season rushing record a mere 12 months after surgical reconstruction of his left knee, and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III may be ready for the 2013 NFL season after tearing the ACL in his right knee for a second time during the 2012 playoffs.

All of that said, one can make the legitimate argument that cases like Peterson and RGIII are outliers rather than the norm and therefore cannot be applied to Lattimore. That very well may be true.

But it might not be, too.

Will Carroll—Bleacher Report's Lead writer for Sports Medicine—addressed that very question:

Lattimore has already proven himself a quick healer once, and I think that, while you'd rather never have these, repeat guys like Lattimore or Griffin are more predictable. They know the process, they've shown they can do the work and they have the heart to work their way back.

That isn't the only advantage Lattimore has over past players who suffered similar injuries. Carroll continued:

The amazing advances we've seen in the rehab process make me think that Lattimore can do things faster than McGahee over a decade ago. Better? That remains to be seen, but there's more than a chance now, which is amazing to anyone who saw that injury happen.

As Lattimore progresses through his rehab, his reconstructed ligaments will become stronger and stronger. In addition to his individual healing ability, how strong his ligaments become relies heavily on the successful completion of his rehab. If all goes well, he could theoretically return to top form, and nothing yet suggests that he is not already on that path.

However, if all does not go well, it will be most evident when Lattimore attempts to cut. If for whatever reason they cannot be fully rehabbed, grafted ligaments may not be able to provide the balance and support needed to quickly change directions.


In addition to these physical obstacles, Lattimore needs to overcome mental barriers, as well. No one can suffer two severe, life-changing knee injuries and not look at the field in a different light from that point forward, and a tentative running back can be just as bad as a slow one.

Make no mistake about it—Lattimore has a long way to go. Nevertheless, while the change-of-direction skills Miller mentions will take time to return to their previous level, his patience and ability to recognize holes in the defense should bounce back much more quickly once he hits the field.

Given that upside, there is a great chance he will be drafted. And if that happens, the chance that football fans, players and coaches alike will be smiling when his name gets called is even greater.


-- A very, very well written and articulate article on Lattimore. He's worth a fourth and I'm starting to lean toward third round at this point.

02-14-2013, 07:44 PM
This article was way too technical for me but I wish him the best.

Galax Steeler
02-15-2013, 03:39 AM
If he could just stay healthy he would be one of the best running backs that we have seen coming into the nfl for a long time.

02-15-2013, 06:52 AM
If you guys are familiar with the Gruden camp on espn around draft time, where he takes in qbs for film study and some drills. Well this year he will have I think 4 non qbs also and one will be lattimore. So if your interested in this guy be sure to watch.

02-18-2013, 09:20 PM
I saw Lattimore's injury against Tennessee and it was one of the worse knee injuries I've ever seen. His knee cap was at a 90 degree angle and his foot was straight ahead...I was pretty bad. The kid's always been a great running back going back to high school. He's just been bitten by the injury bug "HARD" while in college. Good luck to him as he tries to recover from it. :tt04:

02-19-2013, 06:52 AM
Marcus Lattimore says doctors will be “shocked” by his progess at combine

University of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore may not be able to take part in drills this week at the NFL combine, but that isn’t stopping him from trying to impress his future employers.

Lattimore is just four months removed from a gruesome knee injury suffered in a game against Tennessee in October. Lattimore dislocated his right knee and tore several ligaments when a Tennessee defender hit him squarely on his planted leg. He has still not been able to begin running just yet but has said he plans to be ready for the start of the season in September.

Lattimore plans to show NFL doctors just how well he is progressing this week.

“[They] will be shocked. I can tell you that,” Lattimore said on 107.5 The Game, via Brian McConchie of WACH-TV in Columbia, S.C.

Lattimore is expected to attend the combine despite being unable to go through workouts. He’ll be able to meet with teams and go through medical exams to try and assuage any fears teams may have in drafting him. Dr. James Andrews is expected to join Lattimore in Indianapolis to be available to answer any questions teams have about Lattimore’s recovery.

Lattimore also said he plans to start running next Monday after the combine.

“It’s game on,” Lattimore said.

It’s the second straight off-season Lattimore has had to rehab from a serious knee injury. He was widely considered to be a first-round draft pick before the injury in October. If he’s able to convince doctors he’s progressing well in his recovery, it could go a long way toward restoring some of this draft stock in time for the NFL draft in April.


Galax Steeler
02-19-2013, 03:24 PM
Not sure how far he will fall when the draft comes around but I wouldn't mind taking a late pick on him somewhere down the line.

02-19-2013, 03:46 PM
Not sure how far he will fall when the draft comes around but I wouldn't mind taking a late pick on him somewhere down the line.

He's not making it past the fourth round and I'm doubting whether or not he falls that far. I think if we want him, we're going to have to take him in the third which is something I'm all for, personally. Is it a risky pick? Absolutely it is, especially when third round picks are considered 'high', but the possible reward outweighs the third round pick.

Lattimore in the third makes sense. Of course it depends on who else is on the board at the time, but if he's sitting there, it makes sense.

02-19-2013, 08:45 PM
For what it's worth, Mike Mayock says that Lattimore is recovering tremendously... and will shock everyone at the combine.

Oh, and most importantly, Mayock says that he goes in R3.