In 2012, Tank Carradine was in the middle of an incredible season, putting up great numbers. Many projected him as a first-round draft pick, with some projecting him as early as No. 10 overall.
Unfortunately, in the final quarter against the Florida Gators, Carradine had his foot planted, read that Florida QB Jeff Driskel would pass and then sprang at the quarterback. His foot got stuck in the grass, causing him to tear his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Carradine was done for the remainder of the season.
ACL tears are very common among athletes. The ACL is made up of dense tissue. Its purpose is stabilization, and it provides 80 percent of steadiness of the joint. Essentially, it keeps the lower half of your leg from over-rotating or moving in the wrong direction. The ACL is meant to move, but only slightly. It will give about 10 degrees beyond normal. When it is stretched beyond that, a tear occurs. The further it is stretched, the deeper the tear grade. The average recovery time for ACL injuries is one year.
The ACL can be injured in almost any sport, but it happens routinely when the foot is planted and the knee twists. In football, the majority occur when you see a fast cut or when a player changes direction. Tearing an ACL is less likely when a player is on the ball of his foot. This is one reason good footwork is incredibly important from a medical standpoint. Among other things, if a player is cognizant of his footwork, it minimizes the chances of injury.
As expected, Carradine elected surgery to reconstruct his ACL. With new medical technology, a surgeon uses a laser to pinpoint the exact location of the tear, so as to not aggravate any other healthy areas of the knee. But, a well done surgery is only part of the equation. Carradine, from the beginning, was very aggressive with his rehabilitation. He sought out well-known physical therapist, Russ Paine, to lead his rehab. Paine is one of the best, if not the best when it comes to ACL injuries. This rehab specialist was the same PT Adrian Peterson worked with. And with these types of injuries, physical therapy is the most valuable element in rehabilitation.
Russ Paine spoke about Carradine's intensity. He stated that Carradine was eager to follow through on every exercise and devoted three hours per day on speed, balance and strength. Paine noted his focus and determination. While he has obvious talent, Carradine's mental toughness made the difference. Following the intense therapy sessions with Paine, Carradine spent every afternoon working with a strength coach. Clearly, he went the whole nine yards with his recovery.
Midway through his rehab, Carradine vowed to run for NFL scouts in mid-April (four months post-surgery), and he did it. He ran a 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds. I just want to remind you, Tank is 6'4" and weighs 276 pounds. You can see more of him here:
His speed and agility for a man of his size is remarkable by any metric.
Carradine has said he is 100 percent, which is an amazing statement. Even so, the 49ers have the ability to be patient with him. For all the guys coming off injuries, Jim Harbaugh stated they he "[doesn't] want any setbacks" and he was willing to "put the doctors in the driver's seat." Carradine doesn't have to contribute immediately, which will only increase his chances at success.
I have seen a lot of athletes after injuries and know that the grief associated with any disability can be devastating. But, Carradine doesn't seem to be affected by it in the least.