The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NBA News: Pistons’ Jennings Resumes Basketball Activities After January Achilles Rupture

Posted by on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

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It’s been eight months since the Detroit Pistons’ point guard Brandon Jennings ruptured his Achilles tendon in the third quarter of the 101-86 January 25th loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The video is difficult to watch, even for sports medicine professionals, as it shows Jennings rolling on the ground in agony; but it really captures the excruciating nature of a sudden, traumatic event like a complete tendon tear.

Former Pistons’ forward Jonas Jerebko (now with the Celtics) recalled his 2011 Achilles rupture injury and told Jennings the recovery would be “like learning to walk again.” It has been a slow progression for the NBA star, but doctors have finally cleared him to “continue a steady progression of basetball-related rehabilitation activities geared toward a return to the basketball court.”1http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2015/09/28/pistons-jennings-makes-progress-rehabilitation/72976936/

What Happened to Brandon Jennings?

The Achilles tendon incident occurred in the last minute and 20 seconds of the third quarter, with the Pistons down 24 points. As the ball changed hands, Jennings was closely guarding Brandon Knight, who pushed away to break free. It’s a move that happens frequently in the game, but in this case, Jennings’ “left ankle bent awkwardly and he collapsed to the floor, writhing in pain and clutching his lower left leg,” reported the Detroit Free Press.2http://www.freep.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2015/01/24/brandon-jennings-hurt-detroit-pistons-milwaukee-bucks/22299027/

He underwent surgical repair at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York a few days later, which allegedly went well.3http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12238961/brandon-jennings-detroit-pistons-surgery-repair-achilles However, as coach Stan Van Gundy aptly pointed out: “I’ve never read anything after a surgery of an athlete where it didn’t say, ‘I had successful surgery.’ I don’t know what the hell that means. I really don’t. He’s still living after the operation? You’d have to go a long way down the road before you know if his surgery’s successful.”4http://www.mlive.com/pistons/index.ssf/2015/01/detroit_pistons_brandon_jennin_11.html

The initial timetable given for recovery was up to nine months, so the fact that Jennings is back to strength and conditioning work, cardio exercises, and other basketball-related activities at eight months says that his surgery went as well as possible. Eventually, he is slated to return to practices and full-contract drills if all continues to go smoothly.

Can Basketball Players Rebound from Severe Achilles Injuries?

In 2013, a group of doctors reported on the prognosis for Achilles injuries at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Annual Meeting in Chicago.5http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/06/03/0363546513490659.abstract Of the 18 NBA players with Achilles tendon ruptures studied from 1992 to 2012:

  • 11 came back for one season, eight returned for multiple seasons, and seven never returned to play
  • The average age of injury was 29.7, with seven years of playing experience
  • Players returned to the game with 5.21 fewer minutes per game the first year
  • Players had 4.42 fewer minutes per game their second year back
  • Their Player Efficiency Rating dropped by 4.64 points the first year back and 4.28 points the second
  • The number of blocks, rebounds, and steals was roughly the same post-injury
  • The percentage of foul shots and free throws made was also about the same
  • The reason for decline varied from player to player, but all individuals saw fewer free throw attempts6http://regressing.deadspin.com/how-an-achilles-tear-affects-nba-players-or-why-kobe-472944871
  • On average, players missed 55.9 games, but that number depended on where in the season the injury occurred

Sports Illustrated paints a slightly bleaker picture for return to play after Achilles injury, summarizing: “Once the tendon ruptures, it is usually never back to 100% again. Even in professional sports, 36% of NFL or NBA players sustaining an Achilles tendon rupture never return to pro sports, and those who do usually take about a year before they are playing competitively. Additionally, players who do return typically have a decrease in their power of about 50% and only play for an average of 3-4 more seasons.”7http://www.si.com/edge/2015/04/16/rothman-sports-medicine-achilles-injuries-kobe-bryant They do add that Achilles injuries “can be devastating,” but are highly treatable — and preventable with proper stretching and training.

Achilles Tendon Treatment in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan and Westchester, NY specializes in Achilles tendon injury diagnosis, treatment, surgical repair, and physical therapy. We work with amateur and professional athletes in a wide range of sports — from running, soccer, and lacrosse, to football, basketball, and gymnastics. Contact us to be seen right away.

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1. http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2015/09/28/pistons-jennings-makes-progress-rehabilitation/72976936/
2. http://www.freep.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2015/01/24/brandon-jennings-hurt-detroit-pistons-milwaukee-bucks/22299027/
3. http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12238961/brandon-jennings-detroit-pistons-surgery-repair-achilles
4. http://www.mlive.com/pistons/index.ssf/2015/01/detroit_pistons_brandon_jennin_11.html
5. http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/06/03/0363546513490659.abstract
6. http://regressing.deadspin.com/how-an-achilles-tear-affects-nba-players-or-why-kobe-472944871
7. http://www.si.com/edge/2015/04/16/rothman-sports-medicine-achilles-injuries-kobe-bryant

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.