Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson really wrecked it for everyone.
On Christmas Eve 2011, he ripped his ACL and MCL. Eight months later, he was back for Week 1 of the NFL season and went on to rush for more than 2,000 yards.
That was a tremendous feat, so take nothing away from him. But that was just not normal.
The bigger issue is that Peterson’s comeback has raised the expectation that other athletes should be able to return from severe injuries more quickly.
And that brings us to Tiger Woods playing on Friday at the PGA Championship at Valhalla. I know people like to impose a morality play on his decline when it comes to winning majors, but that doesn’t really actually fit with the facts.
Woods’ left knee was a wreck in 2008 when he beat Rocco Mediate in that memorable U.S. Open. It was Thanksgiving 2009 when the whole scandal broke.
Woods injuring his left knee wasn’t surprising, given the force with which he swings. As a right-handed golfer, he comes down on that knee, and it eventually gave.
Back injuries are as common to golf as are three-putts. Woods’ back has been an issue since last year and he had surgery for it on March 31.
He came back in just more than three months, playing in the British Open, and it’s clear by his performance at Hoylake and subsequent tournaments, including missing the cut on Friday at the PGA, has shown that he just wasn’t ready for a return.
Why come back so quickly?
Tiger is just 38, old for most sports, but not golf. There is undoubtedly pressure for him to win a major for the first time since Torrey Pines in 2008, to get the monkey off his back from the morality play that is his life, in the eyes of some. Of course, the ultimate goal for Woods is five more major wins to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
Had he taken this year off, he’d still have 40 majors in which to compete before he turns 50, which might not be the age barrier it once was given golf-fitness programs have come a long way. (I like Tiger’s odds of winning 12 percent of the tourneys he enters.)
Bringing it closer to home and disregarding any society-page connections between the two, Lindsey Vonn blew out her knee on Feb. 5, 2013, at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, in a horrific crash.
Likely because the upcoming 2013-14 season was an Olympic year and Vonn was the defending downhill gold medalist, she seemed to hurry things and ended up doing her knee again during early-season training over at Copper.
Vonn gave it a go at Lake Louise, Alberta, last December finishing 40th and 11th in downhills and fifth in a super-G. It was an admirable attempt, but she clearly wasn’t herself on a course that she regularly eats for breakfast. (She had won seven-straight starts previously there and 14 times in all at Lake Lindsey.)
Vonn went under the knife on Jan. 15.
Will she learn from her own experience, not to mention from those Tiger has experienced?
Obviously, we have a wee bit of a to-do this February in Beaver Creek. The Worlds super-G is Feb. 3 and the downhill is Feb. 6 on Raptor.
The women’s World Cup has the Soelden, Austria, giant slalom on Oct. 25 and the traditional slalom on Nov. 15 in Levi, Finland. Don’t do it, Lindsey. Let Mikaela Shiffrin take care of those.
Skip those two races and you add a month-plus to your recovery.
Aspen hosts a GS and a slalom over Thanksgiving weekend.
I’d even have her skip Lake Louise in December. (Seriously, Lindsey, what on earth do you have to prove on that hill?) Speaking of December, take it off. There are three weeks in a row of speed events in January with Bad Klenkirchelm, Austria, Cortina, Italy, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, leading up to Worlds. That gives you nearly a full year off before returning on Jan. 7, the first day of training for Bad Klenkrichelm, and plenty of speed to get ready for Beaver Creek.
Think about the bigger picture. For Vonn, it’s about becoming the all-time greatest skier, regardless of gender. That means winning at Worlds again — she won twice in 2009 — and adding to her total of 59 World Cup wins. (Globes for discipline championships aren’t really necessary at this point. She has 17. She can use them for doorstops.)
Annemarie Moser-Proll holds the women’s mark with 62 World Cup wins, and Ingemar Stenmark sits at 86.
Sure, Vonn probably feels that there are three wins for the taking alone at Lake Louise in December, but is it worth the risk? If her knee goes again in a Soelden GS or up at Lake Louise, that’s three times in two years, and her career would be in jeopardy.
Lindsey, you’re not Adrian Peterson.
And that’s good in a way. He probably can’t ski too well.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.