Most NBA players who suffer from an Achilles injury never recover their same level of performance after they return, according to the study “Performance Outcomes after Repair of Complete Achilles Tendon Ruptures in National Basketball Association Players” by Dr. Douglas Cerynik and Dr. Nirav H. Amin, from Drexel University.
A Tendon Rupture
The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to the bones in your heel. This tendon is used for speed and explosive power, which is detrimental for a basketball player. Damages to the tendon that could lead to a rupture include, jumping and landing on your feet, advanced age(starting at 30), and excessive strain while pushing off on your foot. All of which occur in the NBA. To imagine an Achilles tendon rupture, think of a rubber band that has snapped in half. The two severed ends become useless. The ankle, in general, is susceptible to many sport related injuries. Read more about sport injuries in this Care Club News Article.
Once the tendon has ruptured, there is nothing connecting the muscles to the bones. It is important for patients that experience a rupture to have surgery as quickly as possible. If they wait too long the ends of the tendon could shorten, which would decrease range of motion and the ability to store energy. With surgery there is also a risk of over-elongating the tendon and decrease in functionality. The patient keeps the injured foot in a boot for three months, then they begin to do muscle strengthening and proprioceptive training. Proprioceptive training teaches your body to control the position of an injury. An Achilles injury is one of the toughest for a basketball player to recover from. In the study by Dr. Cerynik and Nirav’s, 7 players out of 18 never returned to the NBA after their tendon injury and the 11 that did return saw a decline in their overall performance.
Unfortunately, even with all the knowledge we have about Achilles ruptures there is little we can do to prevent these injuries. NBA players are most likely already following proper weight and stretching regimens. However, in the article NBA players often retire after Achilles tear by Kerry Grens, Dr. Selene Parekh, an orthopedic surgeon at Duke University, said “In the future, operations might involve only pinholes, which could perhaps reduce patients’ trauma and risk for complications.” This is promising news for NBA players and their careers.