By Andrew Both
(Reuters) – Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant is likely to start rehabbing his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon almost immediately, and all being well should be back to full strength within a year, a specialist at the Mayo Clinic said on Thursday.
There are no guarantees, however, that Durant will ever feel quite the same, said Nancy Cummings, an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic and head orthopedic surgeon for the Minnesota Lynx Women’s NBA team.
“It takes about a year to get all your strength back in that muscular complex,” she said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
“I think it’s fair to say athletes will put higher demands on it when it’s recovered, so that will take a longer time and some people will never feel totally the same after this injury.”
Four-times season-leading NBA scorer Durant suffered the injury to his right Achilles during game five of the NBA finals against the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
The Warriors won the game, leaving the Raptors ahead 3-2 in the best-of-season series ahead of game six in Oakland, California on Thursday night.
Durant underwent surgery on Wednesday.
Recent history of NBA players who have ruptured an Achilles shows that they are out of action for about nine months on average.
So even if Durant makes a speedier-than-normal recovery, he is unlikely to be back much before the start of next season’s playoffs.
Durant, 30, is about to become a free agent, and there is no guarantee the two-times NBA Finals’ most valuable player will even be with the Warriors next season.
Cummings said knowledge of the best way to rehabilitate a ruptured Achilles had advanced in recent years.
“When I started my training in the ’80s it was more ‘we’ll fix it and immobilize it’ (but) tendons like to move,” she said.
“A functional rehab is better than a static rehab.”
Which is good news for professional athletes like Durant.
“Pro athletes have nothing but time afterwards to rehab so they’re at an advantage,” she said.
“It starts almost straight away. We give them 10 days to let the incision calm down and then start to have them put weight on it in a functional brace or boot that allows tendon to see some stress.
“You start some exercises such as toe curls and things like that to get muscles around the Achilles moving.
“At about three months we start doing some light jogging if all looks well, and gradual return to sports specific activity, but that tissue that is repaired has to mature some and that typically is about the six-month mark.”
Cummings knew immediately when Durant sustained the injury that it was a ruptured Achilles.
“You see his heel drop down and calf muscle reverberate,” she said. “It looks very ballistic. I knew the diagnosis the second I saw it.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond)