NBA Players Who Suffered a Torn ACL
An ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, tear is one of the most debilitating and difficult injuries that can be suffered by an athlete. Essentially sidelining a player for the remaining season, ACL tears can dampen a player’s playing career and can make it difficult to resume top-tier playing status.
But an ACL tear doesn’t have to sideline an NBA or basketball player for life. Below, we are going to look at the top NBA players who suffered a torn ACL and those same players who made a comeback, despite the difficult road to recovery.
What is the ACL?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of a pair of cruciate ligaments (the other being the posterior cruciate ligament) in the human knee.
The two ligaments are also called “cruciform” ligaments, as they are arranged in a crossed formation. The ACL is composed of strong, fibrous material and helps in controlling excessive motion.
This is done by limiting mobility of the joint. The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four main ligaments of the knee, providing 85% of the restraining force to anterior tibial displacement.
However, unbeknownst to many, the ACL is the most injured ligament of the four located in the knee.
What is an ACL Tear?
An ACL injury or tear occurs when it is either stretched, partially torn, or completely torn. The most common injury is a complete tear.
Symptoms of an ACL tear include pain, an audible cracking sound during injury, instability of the knee, and joint swelling. In addition, in about half of the cases, other structures of the knee such as surrounding ligaments, cartilage, or meniscus are damaged.
The reasons for an ACL tear often involve a rapid change in direction, sudden stop, landing after a jump, or direct contact to the knee.
ACL tears are more common in athletes, particularly those who participate in full-contact sports such as, soccer, football, and basketball.
How to Treat an ACL Tear?
If someone suffers an ACL tear, there are two main options to treat the tear and begin resumption of normal activities upon the knee. However, during treatment of an ACL tear, it is important to follow the below guidelines:
- Reduce abnormal knee movements and improve knee function
- Build trust and confidence to use the knee normally again
- Prevent further injury to the knee and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis
- Optimize long-term quality of life following the injury
Once these guidelines have been established, individuals can opt for surgical or non-surgical treatments.
Nonsurgical treatment for ACL tears involves progressive, structured rehabilitation that aims to restore muscle strength, dynamic knee control and psychological confidence.
ACL surgery options involve replacing the torn ACL with a graft. Grafts can be taken from the patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, quadriceps tendon from either the person undergoing the procedure. The graft serves as scaffolding upon which new ligament tissue will grow.
Derrick Rose currently plays for the New York Knicks and was drafted first overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2008 NBA draft. Named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2009, Rose also became the youngest player to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2011 at just the age of 22.
However, in the 2011-12 NBA season, Rose, who had just signed a five-year, $94.8 million contract extension, suffered a knee injury during Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.
With only 1:22 left in the game, and the Chicago Bulls leading by 12, Rose would be helped off the court by his teammates. An MRI later revealed a torn ACL, with Rose missing the remainder of the playoffs and a recovery time of 8-12 months.
Kawhi Leonard currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, he is a two-time NBA champion and a five-time All-Star, with three All-NBA First Team selections.
With superior ball handling skills, Kawhi Leonard has been nicknamed the “Claw”.
Kawhi Leonard played two seasons of college basketball for the San Diego Aztecs and was named a consensus second-team All-American as a sophomore. Selected 15th overall in the 2011 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers, he would go on to help the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA championship.
However, in the 2020-21 NBA season, in the Western Conference Semifinals with the Los Angeles Clippers, Leonard would be injured at the end of Game 4 against the Utah Jazz.
Ruled out for the remainder of the series with a knee sprain and unable to recover, he would undergo surgery to repair a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee.
Jamal Murray is a Canadian basketball player who currently plays for the Denver Nuggets. Having played one season for the venerable Kentucky Wildcats, he was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
However, in the 2020-21 NBA season, with Murray recording his highest career points per game average at 21.2, he would suffer a torn ACL on his left knee during a game against the Golden State Warriors.
Ruled out indefinitely, he would undergo ACL surgery on April 21, 2021.
Dario Šarić is a Croatian basketball player who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. He was the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft and also represents the Croatia national team.
However, in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals, Dario suffered an ACL tear in his right knee. He suffered the injury in the first quarter, when his right knee buckled after landing on a jump stop in an attempt to score.
On May 5, 2022, Šarić underwent meniscus surgery and was ruled out indefinitely. He missed the entire 2021–22 NBA season.
Spencer Dinwiddie currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks and played college basketball for the Colorado Buffaloes, earning him first-team all-conference honors in the Pac-12.
Dinwiddie would miss his junior year after suffering an ACL injury. He was selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. Playing two seasons with the Pistons, he would join the Brooklyn Nets, before being traded to the Washington Wizards and then the Dallas Mavericks.
However, on December 27, 2020, Dinwiddie left the game between the Nets and the Charlotte Hornets with a suspected right knee strain, which was later revealed to be another season-ending partial ACL tear.