Though Chiefs players and coaches won't admit they are giving up on this season despite the slow start, we hear many in and around the organization are already looking to 2012. Three key players — TE Tony Moeaki, SS Eric Berry and RB Jamaal Charles — have been lost for the remainder of the season with torn ACLs, leaving the club lacking important playmakers on both sides of the ball. With a tough upcoming schedule and heat already on the coaching staff and front office, a first-to-worst backslide is entirely possible for the reigning AFC West champs.
The good news concerning next season is that all three of the aforementioned players should be able to make a return to the lineup. PFW spoke with Dr. James N. Gladstone, associate professor of orthopedics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City who specializes in knee issues, and he said that while the recovery process for all three players will be a long one, they should be ready for training camp next summer.
"(ACL tears are) one of the most common injuries not only in football, but in basketball and soccer and many of the other cutting, pivoting and jumping sports. The most highly trained, well-conditioned athletes will get it," Gladstone said. "With these cutting episodes and tackling in football, there's really no way to prevent that."
All three players will undergo surgery in the coming weeks, followed by a long rehab that can take as much as six months. Each will work to regain their range of motion and coordination, which will be achieved by pushing their injured knee in a series of tests, such as jumping off small boxes or a change-of-direction drill where the patient is asked to catch tennis balls off a wall thrown at different angles. They then progress to running, cutting and pivoting.
Numerous NFL players have recovered fully from the same injury Moeaki, Berry and Charles suffered in the past month. Gladstone said that while surgery and rehab don't work for everyone — "you're hoping they recover to 100 percent, but it's not a slam dunk" — the majority of players who tear their ACLs are able match their pre-injury performance. That is good news for a Kansas City club that needs all three players at their best to be successful.
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