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Inside the 'new' surgery behind receivers comebacks

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Will Hastings had just told his parents that he felt capable of running.

They didn't believe him.

"My dad was like, 'There's no way you can run,'" Hastings said. "I was like, 'Watch me, dude."

Six weeks after his ACL surgery, Hastings handed his phone to his dad and took off jogging.

His parents were furious.

Scared that Will was going to hurt himself, Scott Hastings screamed for his son to stop. So did Will's mom, Kim.

They yelled until Will stopped after 15 yards. He turned back toward his parents and laughed.

"I'm back," he said.

It wasn't that long ago that torn ACLs sidelined players for the better part of a full calendar year. If a player tore an ACL in March, the expectation would have been that he'd miss the entire season.

Even by today's standards though, these two Auburn wide receivers -- Hastings and Eli Stove -- are back playing at a time when most others would likely still be out.

That probably wouldn't be the case if not for the work of legendary orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews and a procedure that Hastings described as "new" and "amazing."

Andrews, who has operated on numerous high-profile athletes during his career, is now using stem cells and blood plasma to accelerate the recovery process coming back from ACL injuries.

It can speed up the recovery, according to Hastings, by "three or four or five months."

After three months, the expectation is that guys will be at a point that takes most others twice as long to get to.

"When Dr. Andrews told me that, I was like, 'Wow, that's amazing. Yeah, let me get that,'" said Hastings, who had 26 catches for 525 yards and four touchdowns as a junior last season.

Doctors remake the ACL, wrap it in a "cocoon-like structure" and inject it with the stem cells and blood plasma, according to Hastings.

"It's like putting fertilizer on weeds," Scott Hastings said. "It just really helps the growth."

Hastings suffered his torn ACL March 24 and underwent surgery three days later.

That night, inside of a hotel room with his parents and Jarrett Stidham, Hastings was already talking about how quickly he was going to get back from the injury. His dad was skeptical.

So was Langston Stove when his son spoke early on of wanting to return at some point this season.

One of Stove's brothers had torn an ACL as a high school junior in 2009. It wasn't until his sophomore year of college that he was back to running without a slight limp. When Stove tore his ACL in early March, his dad thought of it as a season-ending injury.

Auburn coaches, though, were hopeful that both players would be able to return during the year. However, they weren't expecting to have both back this early.

Normal ACL patients are usually dependent on crutches for a while after surgery. Yet, one week after surgery, Hastings sent his parents a video of him walking like normal. No limp. No bandage on his leg. Just walking around during a rehab session as if he hadn't just had a major knee surgery.

At the four-and-a-half month mark post-surgery, at a time when most normal ACL patients are limited to slow jogging, both players were back to running full-speed routes.

Stove's father was concerned his son was doing too much too soon until a meeting with Andrews during the summer.

"I was like, 'Wait a minute. That's too fast. I need to hear Dr. Andrews to tell me it's OK,'" Langston Stove said. "But he came down, checked him out, MRI, checked everything, strength and was like, 'It's the same as the other leg.'"

Before 2012, the expectation was that an ACL injury would take at least a year to get back to full strength from.

Adrian Peterson changed that.

The then-Minnesota Vikings running back tore his ACL and MCL in December 2011 but was back for game one of the 2012 season and wound up winning league MVP. He came up a mere nine yards short of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record.

Andrews was his surgeon and talked about Peterson with Stove, Hastings and their families prior to their surgeries. Though he emphasized that Peterson's recovery is "the exception and not the rule," he told both players they'd be capable of getting back quickly if they worked hard and followed directions throughout the recovery process.

They did, working together and motivating each other while working back during these past several months.

The end result: Not only did they get back this season, but they were on the field for Auburn's second game of the year -- just six months after Stove's surgery and five-and-a-half months after Hastings'.

While they've only logged a handful of snaps thus far, both have played in each of the Tigers' last two games and continue to progress.

Hastings' workload was up from two snaps against Alabama State to six snaps vs. LSU last weekend.

Stove, meanwhile, had a 5-yard catch during the first quarter against LSU and survived a hard shot to that right knee that Andrews had operated on during the spring.

"I always reference Carson Wentz, and this dude still isn't cleared," Langston Stove said last week, referencing the Philadelphia Eagles' star quarterback who suffered a torn ACL and some other damage to his knee in December. "But, then again, you have different trainers. And I'm not trying to knock Philadelphia's staff, but, hey, maybe Auburn's staff is better than the Eagles' staff. Just saying... Maybe they are. Not to be throwing rocks at them. But Andrews... Auburn may be comparable."

That led to a joke: Maybe Wentz should have come to Auburn for his surgery and rehab.

Stove's dad laughed and then paused for a second.

"Maybe he should've."

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SCIENCE!

Seriously, though, (and... my love for Auburn aside) if I'm a parent of a high profile football prospect who has a good shot at going pro and making a gajillion dollars playing sportsball, I want to send my kid to the school that has Dr. Andrews on speed dial.

I suspect this is not being used enough in recruiting tactics.

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That's freaking incredible.. and scary.. I'd be very nervous as a parent myself thinking "But is it really back to full strength or just giving them the impression it is?!" lol

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22 minutes ago, Linayus said:

That's freaking incredible.. and scary.. I'd be very nervous as a parent myself thinking "But is it really back to full strength or just giving them the impression it is?!" lol

It's a difficult decision but I don't think coaches or players make the decision when a guy is ready to play …...JMO but pretty much you have to trust the doctors on stuff like that.  

Surgeries have come a long way....I .see people my age with full knee replacement back on the golf course in a bit over a month....and same for hips.   

Hoping these guys aren't pushing it but I think Dr. Andrews is pretty conservative about releasing players back to the game.....isn't he?  

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19 minutes ago, AU64 said:

It's a difficult decision but I don't think coaches or players make the decision when a guy is ready to play …...JMO but pretty much you have to trust the doctors on stuff like that.  

Surgeries have come a long way....I .see people my age with full knee replacement back on the golf course in a bit over a month....and same for hips.   

Hoping these guys aren't pushing it but I think Dr. Andrews is pretty conservative about releasing players back to the game.....isn't he?  

I definitely trust Dr. Andrews - it's just crazy to think they bounce back so fast from injuries like that now. But you're right, the doctors are the ones that say yes or no!

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Wow. Sounds like if you're a star football player it's not a problem to "just let me have that" surgery. Poor sumbeotch like me probably couldn't get insurance to consider it.

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I’m probably going to have my torn labrum repaired in a month or so. I’m curious if anything like this procedure can be done for it. 

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1 hour ago, aubearcat said:

I’m probably going to have my torn labrum repaired in a month or so. I’m curious if anything like this procedure can be done for it. 

Good luck....my sports doc said six months for rehab......so decided I could live with it....:)    At my age, there was not point in taking half a year off the golf course. 

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10 hours ago, Swamp Eagle said:

Wow. Sounds like if you're a star football player it's not a problem to "just let me have that" surgery. Poor sumbeotch like me probably couldn't get insurance to consider it.

I was just a lowley ol high school football player in Alabama and had the same surgeon, procedure, and PT as the NFL guys I was rehabbing next to. Back in the day at HealthSouth there was no telling who you would run into there. 

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7 hours ago, aubearcat said:

I’m probably going to have my torn labrum repaired in a month or so. I’m curious if anything like this procedure can be done for it. 

Good luck with that. Ive had 4 knee surgeries (1 ACL) and my shoulder was the worst rehab of all of them. 

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Medical advancement in recent years seems like fertilizer on weeds in and of itself. Dr. Andrews did my father's knee replacements, one in the 80s and one in the 90s. He was proud of that, being worked on by a famous surgeon. This article made me wonder what Andrews could do with an injury like Bo Jackson had if that was today. Here's hoping it won't be long and paralyzed patients will be walking again with the stem cell research. They already have helped people regain the use of hands and arms. Looking forward to a day when cancer, MS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and many other diseases will not be so frightening because of medical advancements. 

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22 hours ago, aubearcat said:

I’m probably going to have my torn labrum repaired in a month or so. I’m curious if anything like this procedure can be done for it. 

Don't know why but shoulders , labrums, rotator cuffs just seem to take a long time for re-hab.    I did a pretty good physical therapy program for a number of months instead of surgery after my first incident (left side) and the pain has been less and range of motion has been much improved.....and that's for both shoulders....similar problem on right shoulder. ...what the doc called a SLAP-tear.     https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/labrum-slap-tear#1   You have probably read all of this but just in case.

I'm 77 and was not looking for any more surgeries and was pleasantly surprised at what the PT program did for me.   Just saying...:dunno:   it's a good option and surgery is last resort in my view....

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2 hours ago, AU64 said:

 

Don't know why but shoulders , labrums, rotator cuffs just seem to take a long time for re-hab.    I did a pretty good physical therapy program for a number of months instead of surgery after my first incident (left side) and the pain has been less and range of motion has been much improved.....and that's for both shoulders....similar problem on right shoulder. ...what the doc called a SLAP-tear.     https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/labrum-slap-tear#1   You have probably read all of this but just in case.

I'm 77 and was not looking for any more surgeries and was pleasantly surprised at what the PT program did for me.   Just saying...:dunno:   it's a good option and surgery is last resort in my view....

Well, the doctor told me today that it’s Buford Disorder which means I’m totally missing part of the cartilage in my shoulder. Probably a less intense surgery than a labrum repair. He said if home therapy doesn’t work, arthroscopic surgery in about a month. 

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Passthebiscuits taught Dr. Andrews everything, including how to hold a scalpel fwiw.

Edited by aujeff11
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2 hours ago, aubearcat said:

Well, the doctor told me today that it’s Buford Disorder which means I’m totally missing part of the cartilage in my shoulder. Probably a less intense surgery than a labrum repair. He said if home therapy doesn’t work, arthroscopic surgery in about a month. 

Sounds like a plan.....hope it all works out....:)

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