Not missing a single game in one of the most vulnerable, yet protected positions is mind-boggling, especially considering the prevalent offensive line struggles in front of Flacco in 2013. The 28-year-old took a hit on his front leg Monday night against the Detroit Lions as linebacker DeAndre Levy hit knee of Flacco, spraining his MCL in his left knee. Flacco played off the injury but was informed he would have to play with a brace on his left knee for the first time since his days at the University of Delaware during his junior season when he suffered the same injury.
Flacco will be wearing a custom-made brace that is the industry standard in this day an age of sports medicine and athletic training. Baltimore’s signal caller will be wearing the DonJoy Defiance knee brace — an 18-19 oz. carbon-fiber brace that is the only brace used by the athletes in the NFL.
Brian Moore is the director of sales and marketing at DonJoy for Team Sports, and he spoke to me about how the injury will affect long-term.
“Flacco suffered a Grade 1 mild MCL sprain on his left knee and it will heal pretty fast,” Moore told me. “He will wear it the rest of the season and likely a few weeks after. This is the same brace used by Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.”
If you can recall, Rivers played with a torn ACL during the 2007 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots and wore this brace on both legs to keep him afloat, play in the game and prevent further damage to the already damaged knees. While the extent of the other players’ injuries were much more severe than Flacco’s, the premise and purpose of the brace remains the same.
Over the last five years, the DonJoy Defiance has seen improvements on the padding the brace provides, but the biggest innovation in the technology has been what is called the “force-point hinge.” When the knee is at full extension, the brace sends signals to the brain teaching it how to bend the knee properly and further prevent it from being in an at-risk position. When the knee bends at approximately 25 degrees, the brace starts doing its work and helps prevent further injury, provide stability and strength while keeping the athlete mobile enough to where there isn’t a significant drop-off in the knee’s range of motion.
Moore went on to say that the brace itself will provide Flacco with more medial-collateral support, and that since the injury happened on his front leg in his throwing motion the Ravens shouldn’t worry too much about the injury affecting his play too much. If the injury had occurred on his back leg, more balls would tend to sail high as the force and power needed to plant and step into throws, especially tough throws like Flacco’s specialty on the 10-to-15-yard out routes, would simply be more deficient than normal.
Flacco’s knee is in good hands, and though the concern about his short-term health during the Ravens’ push to the playoffs remains high, head coach John Harbaugh knows that no matter the circumstances his quarterback is going to play.
Special thanks to Cassandra Lenski for connecting me with Brian Moore to discuss how the brace will prevent and protect Flacco from further damage to his left knee.