Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most talented and explosive wide receivers in the NFL, but he has also faced his fair share of injuries throughout his career. In 2020, he tore his ACL while playing for the Cleveland Browns, and underwent surgery to repair it. However, he revealed that he played the entire 2021 season with no ACL in his knee.
Beckham signed with the Los Angeles Rams midway through the 2021 season, after being released by the Browns. He said that when he signed with the Rams, Dr. Neal ElAttrache told him that he had no ACL in his knee, despite having ACL replacement surgery during the 2020 season. Beckham decided to play through the pain and risk, because he wanted to help the Rams win a championship.
“I just told him, ‘I’ve been through way too much to come here and sign. There was way too much talk on my name. I came here to help win a championship.’ I told him I’d die on the sword. I just cared that much about playing,” Beckham said in his first press conference with the Baltimore Ravens, his new team.
Beckham played a huge role in the Rams’ success down the stretch and in the playoffs. He caught the opening touchdown of the Rams’ Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and was perhaps en route to Super Bowl MVP honors before getting injured again.
Beckham suffered a torn ACL in his knee in the first half of the Super Bowl, ending his remarkable season. He sat out all of last season to get fully healthy from the second tear, and signed a one-year contract with the Ravens that includes base salary of $1.1 Million, and $13.8 Million signing bonuses. He can also make an additional $3 Million by hitting certain milestones throughout the season.
The Science Behind How Odell Beckham Jr. Played NFL Football With No ACL in His Knee
Beckham’s story is incredible and inspiring, but also raises some questions about how it was possible for him to play at such a high level without an ACL. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is one of the four major ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. It prevents excessive forward movement of the lower leg bone (the tibia) in relation to the thigh bone (the femur), as well as limits rotational movements of the knee.
Without an ACL, the knee becomes unstable and prone to injury, especially during activities that involve sudden changes of direction, pivoting, or landing from jumps. Playing football without an ACL is extremely risky and challenging, as it exposes the knee to further damage and pain.
However, some athletes have been able to overcome this obstacle and continue playing their sport without an ACL. One example is DeJuan Blair, a former NBA player who played for four teams from 2009 to 2016. Blair was born without ACLs in both knees, but he compensated by developing strong muscles around his knees to provide stability and support.
Blair was a productive player in college and in his early years in the NBA, averaging double-digit points and rebounds for the San Antonio Spurs. He later struggled with injuries and weight issues, and eventually retired from basketball in 2018.
Blair’s case is rare and exceptional, as most athletes who lose their ACLs either opt for surgery or retire from their sport. Beckham’s case is even more remarkable, as he not only played without an ACL, but also excelled at one of the most demanding positions in football.
Beckham said that he feels great right now, and that he is still in his process of getting ready for September. He said that he is excited to join the Ravens, and that he hopes to bring his passion and energy to his new team.
The Ravens have long needed more talent at the wide receiver position, and Beckham undoubtedly brings that to the table. He also brings some question marks about his health and durability, as he has missed 27 games over the past four seasons due to various injuries.
Beckham’s fans and critics will be watching closely to see how he performs in his comeback season with the Ravens. Will he be able to stay healthy and regain his Pro Bowl form? Or will he suffer another setback and disappoint his new team?
Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: Beckham has already proven that he can overcome incredible odds and play without an ACL.