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Injury Breakdown: The NFL And The ACL

By Abby Sims
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It appears that torn ACLs (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) and Achilles tendons are the injuries that will account for the most time lost in the NFL at this early juncture of the preseason.

The Ruptured Achilles Roster includes:

Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens linebacker - who suffered the injury while playing basketball in the off-season.

Chris Gocong – Cleveland Browns' linebacker - who was injured in pre-season.

Mario Fannin – Denver Broncos running back - hurt in a recent scrimmage.

Jason Peters – tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles - who was sidetracked in an early off-season workout.

And, on the rebound from an Achilles tear is cornerback Leon Hall of the Bengals, who had been cleared for training camp 8 months after his Achilles tear and is back on the team's starting defense.

All these players underwent surgery to repair the Achilles tendon, a fibrous band that attaches the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the calcaneus (heel bone).  These muscles act to point the foot downward (ankle plantar flexion) – enabling us to rise onto our toes. They are very important in the push-off phase of walking and running, providing power to help propel us forward. For more information on the Achilles, it's predisposition to injury and on issues related to recovery, take a peek at a previous Injury Breakdown column on the Phillies' Ryan Howard.

To date, the NFL's 2012 All-ACL team includes:

Travelle Wharton – star left guard for the Cincinnati Bengals – who suffered his injury on the third offensive play of last week's first pre-season game.

Reggie Corner – Jacksonville Jaguars' cornerback – who was hurt in a recent practice.

Adrian Peterson – running back with the Minnesota Vikings – who hit the jackpot tearing both his ACL and MCL last season, and has not yet rehabbed sufficiently to return to competition.

Dane Fletcher – New England Patriots' linebacker – injured in an Aug 9 pre-season game.

Travis Beckum – Tight end with the NY Giants – who continues to progress in his recovery from ACL surgery after suffering the injury in last February's Super Bowl.

Terrell Thomas – NY Giants' cornerback – injured recently in training camp.

Rashard Mendenhall – Running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers – another player who is still recovering from last season's ACL surgery. Mendenhall was injured in the final play of a week 17 game and reportedly will miss at least the first 6 games of the 2012 season.

Tim Hightower – Washington Redskins' running back – reportedly continuing his rehab and out for the early part of the upcoming season after having his surgery last October.

Honorable Mentions:

Kyle McCarthy – defensive back on the Kansas City Chiefs – reportedly suffered an unspecified but serious knee injury in practice. When a knee injury is not detailed but considered serious and threatens the season, the ACL is always the first suspect.

John Carlson – tight end with Minnesota – who suffered an MCL sprain and for whom there is no definitive timetable for return.

The ACL is the primary stabilizer of the knee and the MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) is the ligament that stabilizes the inner compartment of the knee. Ligaments attach adjacent bones and, though they allow for some accessory movement, their role is to stabilize joints by limiting their mobility. For a quick read on the anatomy of the ACL and MCL as well as factors related to their injury and rehab, take a look at a previous injury Breakdown on the topic.

There are a number of others, like the Redskins' Kory Lichtensteiger, Dre Kirkpatrick of the Bengals, Trent Richardson of the Browns, the Dolphins' David Garrod, and Louis Delmas of the Lions, who assuredly don't consider themselves fortunate to be dealing with fresh knee injuries even before the first official play of the season. However, they will be back. It is all relative.

What's the worst ACL injury you can recall happening in the NFL? Be heard in the comments below!  Follow Abby on Twitter -- @abcsims

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