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Tom Brady had “moderate” risk of further knee injury by playing with torn MCL

Michael Holley and Michael Smith react to reports that Tom Brady played through a torn MCL in Super Bowl LV and examine what repercussions this could have moving forward, as well as how age is a factor.

The news that Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady played much if not most if not all of 2020 with a fully-torn MCL has raised an important question: How in the hell did he do it, and what risks did he assume by doing so? (I guess that’s two questions.)

NBC Sports/Sunday Night Football Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan explained the situation to PFT in a string of text messages this morning.

Brady had, per Ryan, a “moderate” risk of further injury to the knee. The impaired ligament increased the overall laxity of the left knee.

“Ligaments stabilize joints,” Ryan said. “With a compromised ligament, the joint has more laxity. The greater the instability of the ligament, the greater the looseness of the joint.”

It’s still unclear how loose the knee was. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Brady had a partial tear of the MCL. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that it was a full tear. Per Ryan, that may be a distinction without much of a difference.

“With the thin slicing of an MRI, if a small tear in the MCL exists, it will be graded as Grade 3, or complete tear,” Ryan said.

Brady managed to play with the injury because of his custom knee brace. Ryan explained that, with an MCL injury, tape will be added under the brace to further support the knee.

The “moderate” risk of further injury helps explain (but hardly excuse) the team’s failure to disclose the existence of any knee problem for Brady. One good hit to the knee could have re-torn his ACL, which first was torn (and replaced) after a low hit in Week One of the 2008 season. Also, because Brady doesn’t do much cutting or lateral movement, the risk of the knee completely giving out was reduced.