University of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was carted off the field in the first half of Saturday’s game against Tennessee after suffering a gruesome right knee injury. The scene on the field immediately brought back memories of the star’s season-ending ACL injury to his left knee.

Darryl Slater, the Gamecocks reporter for The Post and Courier, reported that Tennessee cornerback Eric Gordon hit Lattimore directly on the right knee. Trainers ran to the field and quickly checked his knee. Some of the medical staff could be seen trying to calm down the obviously anxious running back. Minutes later, as both teams surrounded him to wish him well, Lattimore was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital.

Fractures of the knee
Several bones of the knee can be fractured in high-velocity injuries, including the femur (yellow arrow), tibia (red arrow), and patella (white arrow).
Slater shared comments from the postgame press conference on Twitter. “Obviously, Marcus has got a severe knee injury, but we’ll let the doctors tell you what all it is later on,” said head coach Steve Spurrier.

The concern for Lattimore from players on the field was evident, and it reflected the seriousness of the injury. The fact that Lattimore was taken immediately to a hospital suggests this injury could be much worse than that of his opposite knee last year.

Peroneal nerve location in knee dislocations
High-velocity knee injuries can also injury the peroneal nerve, located along the outside of the knee (red arrow). This nerve provides motor function to the muscles that pull the foot and toes toward the head.
Professional football teams and most top college football teams have x-ray capabilities in their stadiums. If trainers and team doctors suspect only an ACL or MCL injury, they usually can make a preliminary diagnosis in the locker room without sending a player to a hospital. An MRI to evaluate the ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissue structures may be performed in the coming hours or days.

The USC medical staff very likely suspects a much more serious injury with Lattimore. The most likely injuries that fall into that category, based on a direct blow to the knee, would be a fracture of one of the bones around the knee or leg, a multi-ligament injury to the knee, blood vessel or nerve damage, or a combination of these injuries. These problems would likely necessitate urgent treatment and even surgery.

In the coming hours or days, we will know the severity of Lattimore’s injury and whether the Gamecocks star will return to football next year, or ever.

Slater also tweeted comments from teammate Jadeveon Clowney about Lattimore addressing the team after a movie last night. The resilient star who had returned from one devastating knee injury last year told his teammates, “Act like every play is your last play.” Football fans everywhere are hoping this wasn’t Marcus Lattimore’s last play.

The Dr. David Geier ShowMarcus Lattimore’s multi-ligament knee injury: That’s Gotta Hurt segment from Episode 63 of The Dr. David Geier Show.

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Note: This post appears in a modified form as an article I wrote for Bleacher Report Saturday, October 27, 2012, hours after the injury occurred.