After second ACL tear, QB faces tough road

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III might have eluded trouble with his surgery: If his lateral collateral ligament needed reconstructing, his chances for playing in 2013 would have decreased dramatically.

That doesn't mean his road ahead is easy, however. Because Griffin had his second reconstructive ACL surgery -- he had one at Baylor in 2009 -- there's concern as to how quickly he can recover.

But having only an ACL graft -- and not a second one for the LCL -- makes a difference.

"If they had taken a graft and reconstructed the LCL and then done his ACL, his chances would not be that good," said Dr. Richard Lehman of the U.S. Center for Sports Medicine. "Doing the ACL and repairing the LCL leads me to believe that he has a shot. I think it's on the fence, but it's better than if he had two grafts."

The best-case scenario would allow Griffin to return in six to eight months, Lehman said. Had he needed two grafts, Lehman said it could have been a year or more. There's still uncertainty over the exact timetable.

And the fact that Griffin already had his ACL reconstructed doesn't help matters. A key, Lehman said, will be how the joint surface looked at the time of the surgery. If the knee has degenerated and there's joint surface arthritis, then "it makes it much harder to rehab, so it takes longer until you get to where you need to be to play NFL football."

Lehman said it can be harder to get range of motion and strength back, which is why he said Griffin should not rush back.

"You definitely lose something in the second ACL," he said. "There's damage in the joint, so what happens is you're not just reconstructing the ligament, you're also fixing the stuff that happened in the interim from not having an ACL."

Lehman isn't alone in thinking this way.

"The more times you do it, the less successful each time you come back," said Dr. Dan Pereles, an orthopedic surgeon for Montgomery Orthopedics who also was a volunteer to the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I'm not saying you can't come back, but the [ligaments] tend to be looser. That's just looking at the overall picture. Not every player is that way."

The problem for Griffin is that it's his right leg -- the one he uses to plant on his throws. Also, if he's not 100 percent when he returns, it could lead to other problems in the pocket if he can't escape trouble the way he once did.

"You won't tear an ACL; you'll get a concussion or a dislocated shoulder," Lehman said. "The problem is you're making that decision and it's so fast and the play develops so fast that if you don't have time to get set, so if you lose a little ability to plant in the NFL, you're dead. In college you can get away with it."