Hey, Didn’t Lance Berkman Tear His ACL?

So, remember that time St. Louis Cardinal Lance Berkman tore his ACL?

Yeah, it was in a game against the Dodgers on a Saturday night. Routine play, he stretched for the ball at first, fell into a sitting position and then had to be helped off the field. The team knew right away Berkman would be out for a little bit — Matt Adams was pulled from the Memphis Redbirds game that night and made his way to Los Angeles. An MRI wasn’t going to be done until Berkman and the team were back in St. Louis. And then, when it was done … it must have shown the ACL was torn, right? Wasn’t that how it went?

Because that’s certainly what Twitter told us last Sunday and Monday.

Perhaps I’m the only one who remembers reading this, but before all hell broke loose last Sunday night, this was posted during the afternoon — on May 20 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, by Jenifer Langosch on the Cardinals website. (I added the bold.)

“It doesn’t feel right. I wish I knew more than that.” Berkman did differentiate between the feeling of his knee on Saturday compared to previous knee ailments. He has had four knee surgeries already — two on each knee. Asked if he feared this to be a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament, Berkman said he was optimistic that that isn’t the case.

“There is definitely a little bit of instability that is mildly concerning, but it definitely wasn’t the same kind of injury,” Berkman sad. “When I did it before, it was a hyperextension. This time, my knee was bent. I’d be surprised if it is anything that major. My guess is that I have a little meniscus ding. How bad? I don’t know. It’s just a wait and see.”

Not good news, but not necessarily dire either. (And also not published in the Post-Dispatch, at least as far as I could find today.)

But, during Sunday night’s game on ESPN, things suddenly were very much different. I started seeing tweets about Berkman having a torn ACL. Karl Ravech of ESPN tweeted those very words, saying that Berkman “believes” he had torn it and “it could very well be the end of his career.”

I soon saw a tweet or two promoting career retrospectives on LB, and many tweets talking about the torn ACL.

Remember, please, that Berkman still hadn’t had the MRI at that point — you know, the test to determine just what the damage was. Yet some were talking about whether he was Hall of Fame worthy or not.

Then, after the game at 12:21 a.m. on Monday, May 21, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted the tweet soon-to-be-heard-’round-the-world:

Post-Dispatch reporting early diagnosis is that Berkman did suffer a torn ACL in right knee Saturday. Monday MRI to confirm.

— Joe Strauss (@JoeStrauss) May 21, 2012

The wording of the tweet — “Post-Dispatch reporting” — seemed very curious, given that the article, “Berkman suspects injury is serious,” was written by Strauss himself. And it included this:

Neither the club nor Berkman has yet to offer specifics about an injury that caused Berkman to crumple twice after receiving a chest-high throw from shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Maybe that was because, you know, he still hadn’t had the MRI to determine the damage.

But the article also included this — obviously compelling. (Again, I added the bold.)

Berkman voiced optimism Saturday that the injury wasn’t a recurrence of the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in November 2005. However, by Sunday he admitted the possibility is inescapable.

If I’ve torn my ACL or something like that, I’d certainly get it fixed. But you don’t know how psychologically you’re going to come back from something like that,” said Berkman, 36.

And that quote, plus the article it came from, was the reference point for many, many other online postings last Monday:

There are more. You get the picture.

And then came the MRI last Monday … which found a torn meniscus. The ACL was not torn, “but it may be badly stretched,” according to a Post-Dispatch article from late Monday afternoon. Surgery was scheduled for “no later than this Friday.”

Thus came many more tweets from Strauss throughout the week.

Anything before Friday re: Berkman is speculative. But player says he is prepared for ACL replacement. His choice: hamstring or cadaver?

— Joe Strauss (@JoeStrauss) May 21, 2012

(Interesting he mentions speculation, isn’t it?)

My understanding is the Cards know a lot more about gravity, probabilities of Puma’s pending surgery than they’re letting on publicly.

— Joe Strauss (@JoeStrauss) May 22, 2012

Many asked questions of Strauss, such as this and also this.

Then came last Friday, surgery day. Strauss tweeted this just after midnight:

There are 3 possible outcomes to Berkman’s surgery today. Two will require a rehab of 6-12 months. More in @stltoday.

— Joe Strauss (@JoeStrauss) May 25, 2012

And then this, his final tweet at all regarding Lance Berkman’s knee, also from early last Friday morning:

Cards’ Berkman set for knee surgery today bit.ly/KF2oRk …. More detail about what the Puma faces.

— Joe Strauss (@JoeStrauss) May 25, 2012

Strauss did write this post-surgery follow-up late Friday morning — which is what the link in his tweet above now leads to:

The Cardinals announced that the arthroscopy on Lance Berkman’s right knee today “found a partial tear in the medial meniscus, which was removed, and a … cartilage tear, which was debrided.”

No mention was made of damage to the anterior cruciate ligament — which Berkman had feared — in the team’s news release.

No tweets from Strauss about this, though.

And isn’t that in itself interesting? The information you had, the information you wrote about, the information that was spread by sports site after sports site and tweet after tweet turned out not to be true … and you make no mention of it whatsoever. The follow-up article, the one with the good news of LB calling Mike Matheny and telling him “I’ll be back” — that was written by Rick Hummel.

Of course, when it comes to Strauss, there’s nothing that surprises me. Not that I wrote the post linked there — my friend Michael did — but I certainly agree with it.

The point is obviously, news — especially breaking news — is reported much differently in  today’s Twitter age than it was even a few years ago. The desire to be first supplants the desire to be accurate.

I can understand that the changing opinion from Lance Berkman himself about how he felt easily led to the change in tone of the articles. But LB is a baseball player. LB is not a doctor. Also, from personal experience, I can understand how knee pain that at first feels not-good-but-not-agonizing can turn into how-many-of-these-pain-pills-can-I-take-and-why-aren’t-they-working-faster torture. (I cried after an MRI showed I did not have a torn meniscus like the doctor was so sure I did — crying because he then wasn’t sure what was causing me so much pain.)

But what about journalism? Doesn’t that matter anymore?

What about facts, reporting, accuracy — and corrections when what you’ve said turns out not to be true even after it was reported far and wide?

Or, if all the links improve site traffic and clicks in tweets and boost your Klout score, does any of that matter anymore?

As we saw last week, nope.


Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.

4 thoughts on “Hey, Didn’t Lance Berkman Tear His ACL?

  1. Pingback: UCB Newsletter, Week of June 4 — United Cardinal Bloggers

  2. Pingback: UCB Newsletter, Week of June 4 — United Cardinal Bloggers

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