INDIANAPOLIS | It was the talk of the Indiana Athletic Trainers' Association's annual fall meeting on Saturday evening, here. The “it” was the right knee injury suffered by South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
The video evidence was clear. He had suffered a dislocated knee joint.
Potentially catastrophic but fortunately rare, it was clearly a season ender. The question among the athletic trainers was whether he would ever play again. And as bad as it looked, he very well may.
I have been involved in the immediate care and/or rehabilitation of four such injuries. One was to a Naval Academy football player when I was an athletic trainer at Notre Dame; the other three to local high school soccer players. I never found out if the Midshipman ever played again, but the three soccer players did, with at least one going on to play collegiately.
For you doubters in Lattimore's case, I refer you to further video evidence. First, look at Willis McGahee playing for the University of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl 10 years ago. The hit he took on his left knee was every bit as gruesome as the one to Lattimore. Fast forward to Sunday night's NFL game between the Saints and the Broncos. The starting tailback for the victorious Broncos? McGahee, who is on pace for another 1000 yard season — at age 31!
McGahee did not play in 2003 after being drafted by Buffalo, but rushed for 1000-plus yards in three of the next four seasons. He repeated the feat last year, racking up 1199 yards, good enough to be chosen for the Pro Bowl in his first season in Denver.
If it hadn't been for Lattimore's misfortune, the injury video of the moment over the weekend would still have been the line drive off the right side of Tiger starter Doug Fister's head in Game Two of the World Series.
In the immediate aftermath, while the Tigers' training staff was still examining Fister, Fox analyst Tim McCarver said he had recently changed his mind and now believes pitchers should be compelled to wear helmets just like catchers do. McCarver had already been influenced by a similar incident in September when A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy took a line drive in almost exactly the same spot. In that case, McCarthy needed emergency surgery for bleeding on the brain.
Remarkably, unlike McCarthy, Fister was able to stay in the game. Why was he so fortunate?
The video replays of both baseball incidents tell the tale. When Fister was struck, his head was leaning back and the ball literally skipped off his head into centerfield. In McCarthy's case, the ball struck him square and bounced so hard to the A's third baseman that he was able to throw the hitter out at first.
Apparently, Major League Baseball was every bit as moved as McCarver and MLB senior vice president Dan Halem announced last week some form of protective headgear on pitchers is likely next year.
College, high school, and youth leagues should follow suit.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.