John Florence Confirms ACL Injury (With a Minor Twist) - Stab Mag
Photo by Dunbar/WSL

John Florence Confirms ACL Injury (With a Minor Twist)

We asked a doctor what it all means.

Words by Michael Ciaramella

The John Florence knee saga continues, this time with an official diagnosis (it was the ACL!). But before we get into that, let’s remember where we came from.

  • On May 7, we learned that John Florence had hurt his knee in the Margaret River WSL event and was returning home to receive treatment.
  • On May 12th, John confirmed that he had received surgery but did not disclose what type, only that he believed the Olympics were “attainable”.
  • Later that day, we chatted with several medical professionals to learn what type of knee surgery would allow someone to surf competitively within 2.5 months. The unanimous answer was a meniscus scrape.
  • On May 19th, John Florence posted photos of his post-op knee that revealed bandaging consistent with ACL surgery. According to our doc, unless John underwent some entirely new form of ACL surgery, he would definitely not be able to compete in the Tokyo 2021 Games.

Then yesterday, on May 26th, John posted again on his Instagram, this time confirming that he had received ACL surgery, but with a slight caveat. Here’s the full post:

The caption reads:

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to recover and come back stronger from an injury. I’ve tried to simplify it for myself to a few things – setting goals, committing to them, and spending the time to make them happen. Having the support of a dedicated medical team has been a huge help to accelerate the whole process. Feeling really encouraged with how far we’ve come in the last couple weeks.

Going back to the surgery, we were able to do an ACL repair, reattaching the end of the ligament to the femur. It was great news to not need a full reconstruction. The repair has a shorter recovery, and from what I am learning it is a more straightforward healing process for the knee and surrounding muscles.  

We asked our doctor about the significance of the femur reference, as John seemed to imply that it was a different type of ACL surgery to what is typically performed and that would indeed heal faster than usual.

Me: What’s the relevance of the “femur” statement? Is that not where they usually attach the ACL?
Doc: It normally attaches to the femur. They just reattached it instead of replacing it which is what they normally do.

Got it. Does that mean it’s more or less stable than usual? And what’s the difference in healing time?
I don’t know. Never seen one done and I don’t know anybody that has had it done that way.

Alas, the announcement signifies one step forward and two steps behind in terms of understanding this injury’s implications. With the Olympics now less than two months away, we’ll keep you updates as the story develops.


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