Things continue to go from bad to worse for the Terrapins football team. The program has already lost three quarterbacks to season-ending ACL tears, and yesterday it added top linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield to that list.
Coach Randy Edsall announced yesterday the senior would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, ending his Terps career. He suffered the injury with 2:20 remaining in the second quarter of the team’s 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, Edsall said.
“This is another tough loss for the program,” he said in a statement. “Demetrius is a captain and has been a leader of this defense both on and off the field.”
Hartsfield is the fifth player the Terps have lost for the season because of an ACL injury. Quarterback C.J. Brown and defensive end Andre Monroe suffered torn ACLs in preseason practice; quarterback Perry Hills was hurt in the team’s loss to N.C. State on Oct. 20, and quarterback Caleb Rowe was lost for the year a week later in the team’s loss at Boston College.
There is evidence the new FieldTurf Revolution field at Byrd Stadium could be to blame for the injuries, though. Hewett said recent studies show ACL tears are “something like 63 percent more common” on turf surfaces than they are on grass, and Brown, Hills and Hartsfield were each hurt on Capital One Field.
FieldTurf Revolution officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
“You could say if their foot had been on grass and the grass was wet, maybe there’s enough give there between the shoe and field surface that the foot might have slipped before the knee gives,” Hewett said. “When you plant your foot with a real flat foot and you’re dug into the turf, then you twist your body, what happens is — with your foot planted like that — instead of the ball of your foot being up and your foot rotating, your knee rotates, and that basically ruptures your ACL.
While fans have begun to criticize and question Edsall and the Terps’ training staff for the rash of injuries, there’s no concrete evidence to prove a particular type of training can help prevent noncontact ACL injuries, according to Tim Hewett, a sports medicine professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
ACL injuries — which are noncontact about 70 percent of the time — occur when players attempt to plant and cut off a flat foot, Hewett said. Though there are studies showing strengthening core stability can help train a player to plant on the balls of their feet rather than flat-footed, Hewett said they’re little more than theories as of now.
“There are techniques and neuromuscular training programs you can use to decrease relative risk, but these have not been validated in football,” Hewett said. “They are potentially preventable, but at this point, we don’t really know.”
Hewett said he knows one thing: Contact ACL injuries are not preventable. No matter what type of training regimen the Terps implement, the injuries to Hills, Rowe and Hartsfield were unavoidable.
Hills suffered his injury on an illegal hit in the back from N.C. State linebacker Rickey Dowdy; a Boston College defender pulled Rowe down from behind, and Hartsfield’s knee buckled while making a play during Yellow Jackets’ quarterback Vad Lee’s 2-yard rush late in the first half.
Edsall has refused to place any blame on the field or the team’s training staff, though. Wes Robinson has been head trainer with the Terps for six seasons, and Strength and Conditioning Director Drew Wilson has been on Edsall’s staff since he coached at Connecticut. And for all three, these are likely unprecedented circumstances.
“I’ve been with Drew for five years and I know what he does with our program and I see the effects that is has on our guys here and the difference it’s made,” Edsall said Oct. 28. “So I don’t think it has anything to do with that.”
It doesn’t change the fact the Terps now must play what are likely their final three games with a depleted roster. A nine-game starter this season, Hartsfield leads the Terps with 78 tackles — 23 more than second-leading tackler Cole Farrand. He also recorded 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
He finishes his Terps career ranked No. 15 in program history with 338 tackles.
“I feel terrible for him because I know how much the game means to him,” Edsall said. “To have his senior year cut short is just disheartening. We will be here to support him through the rehab process and help him with his transition towards the next stage of his career.”
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the number of Terps out for the season with ACL injuries was stated incorrectly. They have four players out for the season with torn ACLs.