(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri Western linebacker Yomi Alli was putting together an All-MIAA-worth resume with 20 tackles and an interception in the first two games of 2012. But after coming off the field with an injury in week three against Nebraska Kearney, he received news from the team doctor that he didn't want to hear.
"He compared my injury to Terrell Davis' career-ending injury," Alli said.
He had a torn ACL and meniscus, a microfracture in his femur.
"There were points in time where I thought I might not be able to play again. Coming back now, seeing that I'm a better person, a better player, it's just really exciting."
Alli's bouncing back thanks to a procedure that keeps improving.
Dr. William Humphreys says three out of four high school and college athletes are able to come back from ACL tears, and play at a high level.
"Some of it is because surgeries have gotten better, some of it's rehabs gotten better," Humphreys said. "And some of it's just the expectation of the athlete and the coaches has gotten to the point where they treat this person when they come back as if they're a regular person again. Because we can make them really close to being normal."
Dr. Humphreys has been at the St. Joseph Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center for 24 years, and has seen the surgery evolve.
"The tissues we use very closely replicate the ACL," Humphreys said. "In fact, we can put in tissues that are actually stronger if you measure the strength of the ACL."
West Platte's Adam Roe is coming back strong, too.
Roe tore his ACL in the Class 2 State Semifinal Basketball game in March, but he's already working to be ready for his senior season.
"Probably the first day after it happened was the worst day ever, but then the next day I got over it and I knew I had to rehab and do surgery," Roe said. "Right now my knee feels great. I'm shooting 15-footers pretty good, doing leg lifts all the time."
Despite the physical toll the injury has on athletes, the mental side can be the biggest hurdle.
"The trusting of your knee takes a while to get that back," Humphreys said. "There are very few people that, six months out, have complete confidence in there knee, even though their knee is awfully good."
"Just the mental aspect of coming back full speed. Like 'can you make that cut? Can you make that same play that you used to.' It's just getting that confidence in it and then it just flows," Roe said.
Now just months after going through the worst injury of their respective careers, Alli and Roe are near their old form.
Alli is expecting to be 100-percent by the season opener against Central Missouri, while Roe's target date to return for the Blue Jays is between October and November.
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