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Chris Otule Lost to ACL Injury, But For How Long?

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Our worst fears were confirmed early this afternoon when news broke that Marquette center Chris Otule, who had to be helped from the floor on Tuesday after his knee buckled beneath him as he tried to save a ball at midcourt, suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament which is going to knock him out of action for an as-of-yet undetermined amount of time.

I should probably qualify the "worst fears" line because, from what we've heard so far, it doesn't sound like Otule suffered a complete tear of his ACL, which would require immediate surgery and would, quite obviously, keep him off the floor for the rest of the season. Instead, all we've learned to this point is that his ACL is injured and that

Otule and the team’s medical staff will evaluate the best course of action in the coming days which will determine the amount of time he will miss.

That appears to leave the door open for Big Chris's return at some point this season. From what I know about ACL injuries, though, that's going to be no mean feat.

I'm not a doctor, but I know that the ACL is a ligament (duh), which means that the only injury that it can possibly suffer is a sprain. From what I'm told by folks more knowledgeable than me, a ligament sprain ranges in severity from a Grade 1 (the least serious) to a Grade 3 (a complete tear). And while I don't have any personal experience with ACL sprains, my little brother (whom we'll refer to as "LBQ" -- Li'l Brother Q -- for brevity's sake) does.

LBQ played Division 3 college football for a half-semester before a sprained ACL ended his season (and ultimately convinced him to do better things with his time than play non-scholarship football). He came down on his leg wrong after jumping for a pass during practice one day and immediately suspected he'd blown his knee out.

It wasn't as bad as he feared; it turned out that he had a Grade 2 sprain of his ACL, which is a partial tear of the ligament. (As he puts it, his ACL was almost literally hanging by a thread, as all that remained of the ligament were two fibers.) But while he hadn't suffered a complete tear, the rehab for the injury was almost the same as someone who pops his ACL and needs to have the ligament replaced: a lot of twisting of the knee to promote blood flow to the ligament, with exercises designed to strengthen the quadriceps to relieve some of the strain on the ACL.

LBQ couldn't get his ACL sprain rehabbed to a point where he could get back on the field, and he wound up hurting his hip because he was compensating for his bum wheel when he tried to run. Of course, he didn't have access to the same kind of training and rehab facilities that Otule will as a Division 1 athlete, but that's not really the point: regardless of the severity of the sprain to an ACL, the rehab is pretty brutal.

All that said: Big Chris has shown an ability to overcome serious adversity before -- he lost his freshman season after fracturing his left foot, and then was shelved in the 2009-'10 season with a broken right foot. And, of course, the fact that his left eye was removed because of glaucoma when he was an infant is well-publicized. If there's anyone who can come back from this latest injury, it's Otule. Here's hoping it's a quick recovery.