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We promise this won't (really) hurt.

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Gossip Girl: John John Florence Out For The Next 12 Months Due To Knee Injury

While coaching the UCSD Surf Team (AKA snacking on the beach for 12 hours) to a 4th place finish at this year’s NSSA Nationals, I became privy to a haunting rumor.

Apparently, John John Florence had visited the NSSA event site on the day prior to my arrival (to cheer on the kids, what a guy!), and while there, divulged a sad truth about his knee situation.

According to my source – who spoke with the person who allegedly heard this from John – Florence has two options, both of which involve surgery:

  1. John can get a minor surgery that would allow him to surf again after three months, but it would not guarantee the future stability of his knee.

  2. John can get a major surgery that would have him out of the water for a year, but it would more or less ensure his return to 100 percent strength and mobility.

This was obviously a very hot piece of gossip, but because it was two heads detached from the source, I didn’t feel it was reliable enough to publish.

Then Morgan W., the cunning little devil that he is, called me today with a frank admission.

“I just got off the phone with [redacted, but proximal to John], who more or less confirmed the NSSA rumor. And that John’s going to pursue the year-long option.”

According to Stab’s Editor Chief Ashton Goggans, in real journalism, there’s a rule of thumb that if three people make the same specific claim about a person, you can put it in print.

In surf journalism, where we are one-third as smart and one-tenth as reputable as “real” journalists, two people saying the same thing is more than enough. Frankly, I would have settled for one person and a remotely related tarot reading.

So we’re left to assume* that what we’ve been told is true – John will undergo a serious knee surgery that will leave him out of the water, or at least out of competition, for somewhere close to 12 months.


In order to add some legitimacy to that claim, I did some research on ACL surgeries (John is rumored to have injured his ACL, a main ligament in the knee) to see if the rumors held up from a medical standpoint.

The first article I came across was titled: “A Year After ACL Reconstructive Surgery Two Thirds of Athletes Have Not Returned To Sports, Study Finds”.

The article continues:

Two-thirds of athletes who have had reconstructive surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear have not returned to competitive sports 12 months after surgery, according to a new Australian study reported in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.1 The findings are in sharp contrast to earlier studies showing a much higher rate of return to sports at the 1-year mark post-surgery.

Reconstructive surgery of the ACL, followed by an extensive rehabilitation program emphasizing early weightbearing and the immediate commencement of exercises to restore knee range of motion and muscle strength, can allow athletes to return to sport after medical clearance between 6 to 12 months postoperatively, with most targeting a return to sports within 12 months after surgery.

But, while athletes are typically advised that they will require a break from sport of approximately 6 to 12 months for full recovery of knee function after ACL injury and surgery, the study suggests that, if a successful return to sport is defined as a return to the preinjury sports participation level, many athletes will require a longer period of postoperative rehabilitation to ensure a successful return to sport than previously thought.

"The bottom line is that the knee is not normal, even 12 months after surgery," says Dr. Darren Johnson, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Director of Sports Medicine at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine. "When the knee is ready [for a return to sports] is extremely variable between patients."

Perhaps even worse are the psychological scars that such an injury can leave in its wake. The article describes those mental barriers below:

Earlier studies suggested a link between psychological factors and return to sport after ACL reconstruction.  Two showed that patients up to 4 years post-ACL reconstruction surgery reported a fear of reinjury, with patients exhibiting a higher fear of reinjury less likely to have returned to their preinjury level of sports participation when compared with patients with a lower fear of reinjury. A third study showed that athletes who had returned to their preinjury level of sports participation level at 12 months after ACL reconstruction surgery scored significantly higher on a test assessing confidence, emotions and risk appraisal.

On the bright side, John has suffered knee and ankle injuries before, and they have clearly not hindered his subconscious ability to attack girthy sections. Also John will (presumably) be working with the world’s best surgeons and athletic trainers, giving him an even better chance at a speedy and complete recovery.

Which is great, because a whole year without John – both competitively and otherwise – would be a hard pill for any surf fan to swallow.

We wish John all the best in his ligamental struggles.

*Of course we reached out to John about this issue – as is protocol – but have unfortunately not received a response.


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