The Pop Heard Around the NBA

Dr. Beth Sullivan | June 11th, 2019

Most everyone has heard about the “Shot Heard Round the World” which occurred April 19, 1775, and marked the start of the American Revolution. Monday night NBA fans young and old were made painfully aware of the “Pop Heard Around the NBA.” With about ten minutes remaining in the second quarter of game 5 of the NBA finals, Kevin Durant‘s right calf popped and the video has been shown everywhere. Was this latest injury preventable? Should Durant have even been playing? Was Durant rushed back from a calf strain he suffered during game 5 of the Warriors playoff game against the Rockets about a month ago? I am sure these questions and many more will be asked and debated during the long period of recovery that Durant is now facing.

I am sure a lot of you are asking what happened? There were many comments on social media made by armchair medical “experts” trying to explain away the pop, or trying to say the pop wasn’t what most medical professionals knew – Durant had most likely suffered a rupture of his right Achilles Tendon.

A tendon is a thick band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. It is not a separate structure from the muscle but rather a differentiation in the structure and function of the connective tissue that forms both. The Achilles tendon runs down the back of the lower leg and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Also called the heel or calcaneal cord, the Achilles tendon is instrumental in walking or running by helping to raise the heel off the ground. during the stride.

An Achilles tendon rupture is a complete or partial tear that occurs when the tendon is stretched beyond its capacity. Forceful jumping or pivoting, or sudden accelerations and decelerations of running, can overstretch the tendon and cause a tear. An injury to the tendon can also result from falling or tripping. A previous unhealed injury to the associated calf muscle can place more demand on the tendon when it is used for these types of activities and the demand may be more than the tendon can withstand.

The best way to explain this injury is to think of a rubber band that has been used previously and gotten frayed during use. It is the only one you can find so you use it despite the frayed area. While in use the rubber band breaks, not where it was frayed but in a different place. When the rubber band breaks it snaps back and you feel the snap on your hand. This is exactly what happened to Durant. The fibers from the calf muscle that came together to form the tendon were frayed and the stressors but on the muscle and the tendon were more than could be tolerated and the tendon ruptured.

In a study by Amin et al published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013 return to play of NBA athletes who experienced an Achilles Tear was examined. They found that 39% of those studied never returned to play again and of those who did return, saw their playing time and performance significantly affected by the injury.

In the immediate future, Durant will undergo surgery to reattach the tendon pieces and will then be placed in a surgical boot or cast to prevent any movement of the ankle joint while the injury starts to heal. He will be prohibited from weight bearing for six to eight weeks following surgery and then slowly begin to be able to bear his body weight. Physical therapy will be begun when weight bearing begins and the goal is to maximize the range of motion in the ankle and strength of the lower leg muscles. Recovery time is nine to twelve months at a minimum. Durant will miss the entire 2019-2020 NBA season and postseason.

I did a more in-depth discussion Achilles injuries in this article. Achilles Tendon Injury.

All of the writers at The Scorecrow.com wish Kevin a speedy recovery and hope all goes smoothly during the coming months. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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