The Curious Case of Kevin Durant

As I am writing this it is Tuesday the 11th of June in Australia. It’s currently about to be Game 5 of the NBA finals and the Warriors are down 3-1 to the Raptors. One loss away from losing it all and the Raptors from winning it all. However, if you have followed the series or the playoffs closely you will know that the Warriors have been without their two time finals MVP, Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the NBA, if not definitely top 5. Durant is set to return for Game 5 after an injury that he sustained in April. If you have seen the video of Durant’s injury, you will know that it was quite unusual. After making a jump shot, he landed, jogged up the court and out of nowhere pulled up sore and looked behind him. This may seem strange, but to many people it looked like a ruptured achilles. Generally when people rupture their achilles, it’s non-contact and they often turn around as if someone has kicked them, after gingerly walking off the court, the media speculation was through the roof, stating that he had sustained a strained calf and would be back soon. However, it’s now Game 5 of the NBA finals and the day before there is footage of him walking to the practice court gingerly, which means that he’s nowhere near 100%. Now mind games aside, there was confusion amongst teammates about whether he would be back for Game 4. But he was not.

So how is it that a non-ruptured achilles/calf strain has taken so long?

Let me explain the options:

  • Ruptured Achilles: We would not be seeing him return to the court in this time frame so we can rule that out.
  • Achilles Tear: There may be some small form of tearing in his achilles tendon. If this is the case, imagine that last bit of cheese on a pizza hanging on by a thread. Now, I do not believe they would risk the long term health of Kevin Durant like that, even if it is the NBA finals. So if there is some tearing you can be sure it’s fairly minimal.
  • Calf Strain/Tear- There is actually no difference between a ‘tear’ and a ‘strain’. The only real difference is the severity of the injury. Strain is a nicer (softer!) way of saying ‘tear’.

We can break down the severity of these strains/tears into three classes:

  • Grade 1: Mild damage to individual muscle fibers (less than 5% of fibers) that causes minimal loss of strength and motion. These injuries generally take about 2-3 weeks to improve.
  • Grade 2: More extensive damage with more muscle fibers involved. However, the muscle is not completely ruptured. These injuries present with significant loss of strength and motion. These injuries may require 2-3 months before a complete return to athletic sports.
  • Grade 3: Complete rupture of a muscle or tendon. These can present with a palpable defect in the muscle or tendon. However, swelling in the area may make this difficult to appreciate. These injuries sometimes require surgery to reattach the damaged muscle and tendon.

If we look at the grading system here, we can somewhat speculate that Kevin Durant has likely suffered a Grade 2 calf strain, perhaps with some achilles tendinopathy associated. It has been almost two months since his last game and he is still visibly sore.

It will be interesting to see how he performs and how he is feeling. This goes to show that, even with the best medical facilities and care, we can only do so much to hasten up the process.

EDIT:

I am now currently writing this at halftime of the game. Unfortunately, Kevin Durant sustained another injury to the same leg in the middle of the 2nd quarter, again, clutching at his calf/achilles region. He was able to walk off the court with the assistance of teammates. However, he does not look set to return. It does show that he was most likely not ready to return to action. Interestingly, we will have to wait and see what the medical staff say.

UPDATE:

Injury is confirmed to be the achilles this time, they are waiting for him to undergo MRI. Shame, can’t place blame on anyone as there is no way to predict an Achilles injury.

Written by Mick Ceravolo, Podiatrist and basketball fan.

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