John Elway Played Entire Football Career with No Left ACL

If nothing else, John Elway is a tough son of a gun.

Any ACL tear is generally a devastating injury. Generally, pre-2000s, (when progressions in surgery allowed players like Adrian Peterson to recover) and ACL tear was a career killer. That was the prognosis for the average player. John Elway however, was not the average player. Per an article from Complex, John Elway never repaired his left ACL which he tore in high school. After more digging, I found this¬†excerpt from Matt Christopher’s book,¬†In the Huddle… with John Elway:

Today, surgical procedures often can repair torn ligaments. But when John hurt his knee [in high school], there was little doctors could do. In 1978, a torn ACL was a career-ending injury for most athletes. But John wasn’t like most athletes. For some reason, even without his ACL, his knee remained stable. Although he couldn’t play football for the remainder of the season, one month after the operation, John’s doctor examined the knee and, stunned, pronounced John fit enough to begin baseball practice. He even gave John the okay to resume his football career in college the following fall. Even without the ACL, John’s knee was stronger than most.

So, to clarify, everything that Elway’s done was accomplished without an ACL. So, without one of the most important ligaments in the human body, the Hall of Famer did this:

and this:

and also get hit like this:

And manage to do this:

Or maybe, most notable, this:

All that without an ACL. All I can say is wow. In my eyes, this really just adds to Elway’s legend. It is surprising, and I didn’t even know this was possible, but if anyone could play without an ACL, it would be John Elway.

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Leo Duke

My twitter's @Leo_Elway. 17 year old Broncos fan, representing in PA. Email me at, or shoot me a tweet if you have any football questions.