Tape It Up: ACL Madness

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ACL Madness

This week's most popular injury was a common one - tearing the knee's anterior cruciate ligament - and it claimed the season of more than a few players. Pittsburgh wide receiver Derek Kinder is the most recent victim of the epidemic, tearing his ACL on Saturday, but he joins a long list of players whose seasons will be spent on the bench after making a cut in a routine drill.

Kinder, a first-team all-Big East selection, tore his ACL just like most players do, while making a quick cut during a non-contact drill in practice. His right knee will require at least six months of rehab, knocking him out of the lineup for the 2007 season. Luckily for Kinder, the senior still has his redshirt year to use, so he'll use this season to undergo surgery on the knee and, with a little luck, come back just as strong for his senior year in 2008.

Unluckily for Pitt, the Panthers will be without their top receiver in a season they could really use him. Kinder caught 57 passes last season for 847 yards and six touchdowns, making him a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff award as college football's top receiver.

Tennessee tight end/fullback David Holbert is in exactly the same boat - after tearing the ACL in his right knee over the weekend, Holbert will redshirt for the year and return next season. Assuming he can recover and return to his current form by next August, Holbert may actually benefit from the year off, as he will no longer be battling seniors Chris Brown and Brad Cottam for the starting spot. Holbert has appeared in 34 games for the Vols, but only has one start, forever stuck behind Cory Anderson, Brown and Cottam in the depth chart.

Coming back from injury is no easy feat, especially when the injury usually requires eight to 12 months of rehab, but beating out a perennial starter for a position he hasn't held in four years may have been even tougher. Next season, Holbert will get a second chance.

UCLA freshman Raymond Carter, on the other hand, will have to wait another year for his first chance. Carter also tore the ACL in his right knee in practice this week, also during a non-contact drill, also while making a cut. He will be scheduling his surgery as soon as the swelling in his knee subsides.

The Bruins are not blessed with the depth at tailback that Tennessee has at tight end and fullback, so Carter's injury will have immediate effects. Carter was in competition with Kahlil Beck for the backup role behind senior Chris Markey, but his absence leaves room for sophomore Chane Moline and walk-on Ryen Crew to get noticed and earn some playing time.

A torn ACL has long been the trendy injury for football players, but the number of players snapping their ligaments daily is startling. It is well known that ACL injuries can be prevented (or at least their likelihood reduced) by balancing the strength between a player's hamstrings and quadriceps, and by maintaining flexibility in those muscles. Increasing hamstring strength and felixbility, as well as plyometric exercises, should be a priority in all training regimens, especially for players like running backs and wide receivers, for whom quick changes in direction are an integral part of the game. Installing flexibility requirements might just save a player's season, and that of his team, as well.

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