The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NBA News: Update on Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic’s Achilles Recovery

Posted by on Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

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Achilles tendon surgery has come a long way over the years — particularly when done by a skilled, experienced surgeon like our own Dr. Josef J. Geldwert  but patients still must prepare themselves for a lengthy period of rehabilitation. Back in November, we reported on the Achilles tendon injury that sidelined the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic. His story really illustrates what sort of slow, challenging recovery patients can expect following an Achilles operation.

Minnesota Timberwolves will have to deal with being down a big man for the rest of the season thanks to Pekovic's slow Achilles recovery. | Image Source: Wikipedia via Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves will have to deal with being down a big man for the rest of the season thanks to Pekovic’s slow Achilles recovery. | Image Source: Wikipedia via Minnesota Timberwolves

Initial Prognosis for Achilles Recovery

Typically, we tell patients to expect a total recovery time of 9 – 15 months for Achilles repair. However, in this case, Nikola Pekovic had a debridement procedure done to clear away scar tissue, rather than a reconstruction of the tendon itself. If a patient has suffered chronic problems for years  as Nikola Pekovic has  then a “slow and steady” recovery plan on the conservative side is recommended. At 6’11” and 307 pounds, his sheer size is another factor that makes recovery more difficult and time-consuming.

Sometimes Achilles debridement recovery could take place in as little as three or four months. We use platelet rich plasma injections and physical therapy to ensure more successful rehabilitation for our athletes. However, each case is unique, so there’s no easy answer as to how long recovery will actually take. To competitive players, it can feel like forever and be riddled with setbacks. We do our best to minimize repeated pain and keep athletes on a steady track for recovery.

A Closer Look: Should You Get Achilles Tendon Surgery?

Nikola Pekovic’s Rehabilitation Full Of Ups And Downs

At first, it seemed like Pekovic was on the fast track to recovery when, at the end of December, he was reportedly “back to full contact practice” nine months after his procedure. Most of the time spent off-court was aimed at rebuilding strength in his legs through physical therapy. By the time he was cleared to resume practice, he was up to 85% of the strength he had prior to surgery.

While he was given a strict minutes limit, Pekovic was happy to get back into the lineup. With an average of 4.5 points and 1.8 rebounds, he seemed to be doing well. However, just two months and twelve games later, we learned that the pain has resumed and he is “out indefinitely”.

Timberwolves’ VP of sports performance Arnie Kander explained: “While we’ve made significant strides with Nikola since his surgery, we’ve come to the conclusion that to ensure he has the best opportunity for sustained success on the court, we need to continue to focus on his rehab and make that the priority.”

He added that it was not a tendon-related complication from the surgery that was causing all the trouble, but rather a persistent weakness related to his time off. “It’s not because of the surgery, but because of the weakness he had secondarily to the surgery,” Kander said. “Because of the Achilles and the weakness, you’re going to hit your heel a little bit harder when you come down. So what we found is he was getting heel soreness….When you get soreness, your muscles get a little weaker.”

NYC Achilles Surgery & Recovery

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC specializes in tendon surgeries and rehabilitation, particularly among competitive athletes. We’ve worked the sidelines of NYC marathons and tennis competitions to treat acute injuries and have served as team podiatrists for professional soccer, lacrosse, and basketball franchises. Contact us to explore your options for Achilles rehab.

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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.