Study results presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual meeting at the end of March suggests that NBA players who return to the sport after rupturing their Achilles tendon have decreased performance and playing time.
"You can have a successful surgical repair with the result being that you return to the NBA, but you do not return to your preinjury levels," said Rohit Garg, MD in "Performance Outcomes After Repair of Complete Achilles Tendon Ruptures in National Basketball Association Players", to be published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
Researchers collected data from 1992 to 2012 of players' NBA summaries, injury reports, and player profiles. They tracked patient age, body mass index, position, years played for the NBA and games missed. They also had season statistics for each player and assessed NBA player efficiency ratings (PERs) for 2 seasons before and after injury. The Wilcoxon signed ranked test was used to compare PER and minutes per game (MPG) before and after the injury and the Mann Whitney U test to compare players side by side. The average age of players was 29.7 years, average BMI was 25.6, and average years playing in the NBA was 7.4 years.
Out of 18 players, 11 returned to play and eight players played two seasons or more. The seven players who returned missed 55.9 games on average and their MPG decreased 5.21 in the first season and 4.28 in the second season. PER decreased to 4.64 in the first season and 4.28 in the second season. Both MPG and PER decreased dramatically in the first season when compared to matched controls, but there was no difference in the second season.
"A total of 38.9 percent of players never returned to play," Garg said in the study.
And position played by the athlete didn't matter either. "We had a well-rounded group of players. There wasn't a conclusion that said all forwards came back and none of the centers. It was spread evenly throughout," said study co-author Dr. Nirav H. Amin of Drexel University.
So what does this mean for Bryant? Bryant is on the wrong end of the age curve. "There have been 18 (Achilles tendon ruptures) over a 23 year period and Kobe's on the extreme end of the age range. Players of a similar age have generally not been able to return to play," said Amin. Coach Mike D'Antoni likes to play his stars for long minutes, and they are typically the ones to go down with injuries. And yes, Bryant's injury may have been prevented if D'Antoni didn't play him as much as he did.
Reference: Healio Orthopedics and DeadSpin
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