The Achilles tendon, the powerful lower leg tendon that acquired it's name from the famous Ancient Greek warrior of the Trojan War is now a significant concern for another Warrior- Kevin Durant. The weakness of the famous Greek is now presenting itself in Golden State.
Achilles ruptures are known for their long rehabilitation times. In an elite basketball player, typically surgery is the option with a recovery time of approximately 9-12 months. To note, this is the time it would be expected to see the player back on the court, not at full potential. To allow for successful healing of the tendon repair, the initial stage requires the athlete to be nonweightbearing on crutches. This can range from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on surgeon, patient, and the repair itself. At around 6-8 weeks, the patient will begin to progress toward full weight bearing in a walking boot and physical therapy will be initiated. The physical therapy protocol tends to be very slow and conservative. Over time, The patient will eventually be weened from the walking boot to regular shoes with use of heel wedges (gradually bringing them into normal ankle ROM). Restoring ankle ROM, minimizing swelling, protecting the repair, and tissue healing are the first steps in the process. At first, ROM will typically be restricted by surgical protocol to allow for healing. Once significant healing has occurred (generally around 3-6 months) full ROM is encouraged and walking in a regular shoe may be tolerated.
Strengthening of the calf muscles can not be initiated until the repair has experienced significant healing to withstand load. This is going to be specific to patient, doctor, and the repair itself. Initial strengthening of the calf will typically start with isometric and low grade isotonic exercises (ie. theraband). As time passes, and healing takes place, a progressive closed chain strengthening routine is followed to slowly reintroduce body weight forces on the achilles tendon. It is not until significant healing and strengthening have occurred that running and sport specific movements (agility, jumping, etc.) can be reintroduced. Depending on everything, you are looking at approximately 6-9 months before running (and other controlled sport specific movements) can be safely reintroduced. Throughout the rehab process, the athlete will focus on kinetic chain, upper body and core strengthening to further ensure safe return to sport.
The achilles rupture is an injury that leads to a long road to recovery. It is one that can change the career trajectory of an athlete and can be a physical, mental, and emotional challenge. Fortunately, KD is faced with this obstacle earlier than most (at age 30). His age and athletic level should play in his favor. KD's rehab process will be integral to avoid the approximate 5% rerupture rate and to return to his previous level of greatness. Only time will tell, whether the injury that determined the fate of the Greek Warrior will have the same effect on the NBA career of the Golden State Warrior.
Check out this Sports Illustrated article to see how other NBA players have faired in their recovery from Achilles rupture.