Kobe Bryant of the L.A. Lakers has returned to play after an Achilles tendon rupture in mid-April. Frankly, that’s a relatively rapid recovery, although it remains to be seen whether Kobe can return to full activity, which can be difficult after such an injury.
As we have previously discussed, the Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body, is formed by the intersection of two muscles in the calf, and inserts onto the back of the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis is a syndrome of inflammation of the Achilles tendon and is very common and treatable in most cases. The more devastating injury is the Achilles tendon rupture, in which the tendon tears, usually at a point a few centimeters above the insertion. This tends to occur in a foot that is fully outstretched and planted, as in the foot that is attached to a middle-aged weekend warrior coming down from a layup. Non-surgical treatment involves 4-8 weeks in a cast, versus Achilles surgery of the tendon. Each treatment has its particular set of advantages and disadvantages, although most studies indicate that for younger, active patients, or professional athletes, surgery is best.
As in the case of Kobe’s injury, full recovery can be slow, typically 6-12 months, and some patients never return to full pre-injury level of play. The latest research indicates that early exercise and rehabilitation can accelerate the recovery, which may have aided Kobe to return to the game after a relatively short time. As with any injury it is critical to ensure that the patient, or in this case, the player, is able to withstand the stress of a full-on professional basketball game before return to play.
So we watch, and wait to see how Kobe fares. And since Dr. J is no longer on call, Kobe can always settle for Dr. I.
See you in the office.