With the NFL preseason heating up, the list of key players lost to injury continues to grow. One of the more prominent injuries to occur over the weekend was that of Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware, who tore the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee, in addition to additional damage of the knee. The Chiefs expect Ware to miss the entire 2017 season as a result of the injury.

We often hear more about the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than the PCL, but the PCL is an important ligament as well. The PCL is one of a few ligaments that help to connect the femur to the tibia. Its primary role is to prevent the tibia from being pushed back too far. A tear of the PCL usually requires a great deal of force. Outside of the football field, car accidents are the most common cause of a PCL tear, as the injury is usually rare in other sports.

With a relatively minor tear of the PCL, it’s possible for the body to heal on its own, and so with proper rest and rehabilitation, athletes are able to return to the playing field without any lingering knee problems. Unfortunately, Ware’s injury appears to be a rather serious tear that has also affected other parts of the knee. This scenario is quite common with PCL damage. 

“(Ware’s) issue is that he also has some damage to what’s called the posterior lateral corner of his knee, which is the outside back portion of his knee which is made up of ligaments and tendon,” explains Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder. “He damaged those and, at this point in time, our medical staff believes he needs season-ending surgery to correct that problem.”

Assuming Ware ends up undergoing surgery for both the PCL tear and damage to the posterior lateral corner of his knee, the rehabilitation process could be quite lengthy. Ware will be able to perform range-of-motion exercises soon after surgery and work his way back to strength training – although the process will be slow. It may be several months until Ware is able to run or do any kind of serious training that NFL players are accustomed to doing. Depending on the severity of the injury, full recovery could take up to a year.

Suffice it to say, Ware’s injury is both devastating for him personally, as well as for the Chiefs. After struggling to break into the NFL for a few years, Ware enjoyed a breakout season in Kansas City last year. He was the team’s leading rusher with 921 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught 42 passes for 447 yards and two more touchdowns. At the start of training camp, the Chiefs penciled in Ware as their starting running back this season, as they were expecting big things from him in 2017.

Without Ware, the Chiefs will likely turn to rookie Kareem Hunt as the starter. Kansas City also has a pair of veterans in their camp who can serve as backups to Hunt, a third round pick from Toledo, in Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller. Of course, the loss of a multifaceted back like Ware to a season-ending knee injury is still a devastating blow to the Chiefs, as they look to compete in what should be a tough AFC West division this season.