When will Kevin Durant return?
That could very well be the biggest question surrounding the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, a series that is now tied 1-1 after Golden State earned a five-point Game 2 win in Toronto.
Takeaways: Warriors steal Game 2
What do we know?
In the third quarter against the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, KD suffered what the Warriors called a mild strain in his right calf. Weeks later, head coach Steve Kerr provided an update that the injury was more serious than the team initially thought. Now, nearly a month removed from the injury, Durant has yet to return to practice with the team.
When will he take the next step towards returning to action, prior to Wednesday's Game 3? Ahead of Game 4 Friday?
There are a number of details surrounding an injury of this calibre that calls for a team to be cautious with regards to the team potentially hurrying his return. To learn more about this injury, NBA.com spoke with Santiago Ledesma, a kinesiologist from the Argentine National Basketball Team, who provided more background on this type of issue based on prior knowledge and the information that has been made public by the Warriors.
What injury do we talk about?
"The first thing to determine is the location of the injury," Ledesma begins. "A very common injury is referred to as 'leg tennis', which occurs in the junction between the medial gastrocnemius and soleus. When the injury is at that point, recovery time is double or tripled. As the injury was initially feared to be a ruptured Achilles tendon, all signs would indicate that the injury is in that area of the leg because they are often confused. In that case, it is likely Durant suffered a fibrillar injury in the spot where the two muscles meet."
How is it treated?
"The injury is treated as a tear, meaning early treatment would consist of mobility. Today, the tendency is to focus on mobility rather than to immobilize the injury at the risk of forming fibrosis, or thick scar tissue. This injury requires early mobilization, early flexibilization and eccentric contractions are progressively added in. In addition to daily clinical evaluations, it is important that the progression in treatment is very gradual."
"Maintaining aerobic condition is another valuable point, as the activities that are low-impact for the injury, such as cycling or swimming, are important."
"Another focal point is an assessment of factors that may have led to the injury. An injury is not a result of bad luck nor one specific cause but rather a number of causes. There are a number of factors that may predispose a player to a muscle injury, such as posture, diet, or gradual tension… When risk factors are added, an athlete increases its likelihood to get injured and from there, what produces the injury is a triggering event. In this case, it can be a bad move, but one takes factors into consideration. Outside of focusing on the injury itself when the rehabilitation process begins, you must focus on minimizing the factors that led to the injury."
What are the recovery times?
Ledesma marks that, in principle, recovery time is relative and there is no absolute answer, but there are several factors that affect the time it takes.
"This specific injury takes some time to recover from because there is not a great deal of blood flow to this area of the leg. In this case, the size of the injury does not matter as much as the location of the injury - a point that tends to take longer because without blood getting to the area it cannot heal quickly."
"In any muscle, a fibrillar injury takes around 14 to 21 days of recovery, depending on the size (a key factor). When talking about the type of injury sustained by Durant, it would require 40 days to two months of recovery based on its location."
What are the risks upon his return?
Whereas in the case of Durant, it was reported that he could return between Games 3 and 4 of the Finals against Toronto, he would be returning to action after a month-long period of inactivity. While the high-stakes stage that is the NBA Finals might lead you to believe the Warriors would expedite his return to the courts, it seems clear that this recovery would take much longer had the issue occurred during the regular season.
What could happen should he return too soon?
"If you hurry and worsen the injury rather than waiting another week, it could result in an additional month of recovery time. A flare-up in that area takes much longer to heal, and it's typically not something to chance because of the complexities with that muscle group. Each person has a different time of recovery, which depends on the tissue, but the main goal remains the saim: Avoid fibrosis and promote healing," Ledesma explained.
Why is adequate recovery important?
"Because injuries of this nature are very limiting for basketball, as this is a muscle that is put into action each time you run and jump. Essentially, this is an injury that does not allow you to do much of anything - jogging, jumping, or anything required in basketball," he closed.
Up to this point, Golden State has held its own, but the challenges that Toronto present has shown that the Warriors need KD to recover as soon as he possibly can. When will this be? We shall find out in the next few days…
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