Penrith Panthers general manager Phil Gould has announced Peter Wallace’s retirement from the NRL with immediate effect whilst revealing the former NSW Origin half-back has played the last two seasons without an anterior cruciate ligament.
“Peter has been battling with injury for several years and has repeatedly played for the club with injuries that would keep the normal man home in bed,” Phil Gould said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“It can now be revealed that Peter has played the last two years with no ACL in his knee after his last knee reconstruction actually failed.
“I can also remember him staying on the field for 50 minutes in a game where he had completely torn his ACL. He is a tremendously tough individual and his leadership has been wonderful for our club.”
Penrith tweet: Today is a chance to reflect on your favourite moments from Peter Wallace’s career… like this one
The former Bronco half-back was well known for his ability to play through the pain barrier — most famously in Game II of the 2008 State of Origin series when he played through a ruptured testicle.
Moving to hooker in 2016, Wallace won the John Farragher award for Courage and Determination for the way he battled back from the ACL injury to run over 900 metres and make over 800 tackles — the most of any season in his career.
Although Wallace eventually succumbed to his injuries, he was still able to perform at the top level for the Panthers for two years without an ACL — an incredible achievement.
Aside from simply playing through the pain barrier — how can any athlete play top level sport without an ACL?
It’s not actually as uncommon as you might think.
Around 200,000 knee reconstructions — the go-to option when an ACL has been compromised — were performed in Australia between 2000 and 2015, so these injuries happen fairly frequently — and not just to professional athletes.
The ACL can be damaged in a variety of ways, either by landing awkwardly, twisting or stopping too quickly, or even from a direct collision — all common scenarios in the football codes, basketball and netball amongst others.
The ACL is the major stability ligament for the knee and as such, any serious injury would normally mean surgery or a one-way trip into retirement.
But despite the obvious disadvantages there are several instances where athletes have continued to play without an ACL and have incredibly successful careers.
In the NFL, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers famously played a 2008 conference championship game after tearing out his ACL and has since worn a brace to compensate for the lack of stability.
NFL tweet: Philip Rivers dropped back 37 times in the 2007 AFC Championship Game. With a torn ACL. Seriously
Two-time Super Bowl champion Hines Ward played 217 games in the NFL as a wide receiver without an ACL in his left knee, making exactly 1,000 catches for 12,083 yards.
The 2005 Super Bowl MVP even went on to compete in an Ironman triathlon after his retirement — proving perhaps that there is nothing you cannot do without an ACL.
In basketball, DeJuan Blair played over 450 games in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards without an ACL in either knee — an extraordinary feat for a 2.01 metre, 122-kilogram power forward.
Closer to home, Mitch Short of the NSW Waratahs ruptured his ACL on his Super Rugby debut against the Sharks in Durban earlier this year, but was still able to play out the rest of the game and make his first start just two weeks later in the derby win over the Rebels.
The Panthers said Wallace will continue to train in a reduced capacity in case of an injury crisis later in the season and that he will take up a coaching position at the club.
Broncos tweet: Congratulations Peter Wallace on a stellar career from the Bronxnation – wonderful contributions to the Broncos, the PenrithPanthers and the game of rugby league in general