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10:39 AM

What This Sports Physical Therapist Hopes Parents Learn From Kevin Durant's Injury

An expert speaks on the dangers of rushing an injured athlete back into the game

Even if you have absolutely zero interest in NBA basketball, odds are you heard about Kevin Durant’s season ending (and potentially life altering) injury on Monday night.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t paid much attention to the NBA Finals this year. I’m much more impressed that the Rangers are over .500 at this point and in thick of playoff contention for a Wild Card spot…

Anyways, the NBA Finals are heading into Game 6, with the Toronto Raptors up 3-2 over the Golden State Warriors. When I heard on Monday afternoon that Kevin Durant was planning to play in Game 5, my stomach dropped. If you aren’t aware, Kevin Durant suffered what was called a “mild calf strain” on May 8, during a game against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals. What was initially labeled as a “mild” injury, was later in the month described as worse than first thought by head coach Steve Kerr.

Even Durant said he originally thought the injury was worse than a strain. This past Sunday, the day before Game 5 of the finals, Durant practiced with his team for the first time since the injury. It was the perfect making of a sports fairytale – a team down 3-1 in the series desperately seeking a win to avoid losing the championship, the injured hero boldly rushing his return to save the team and hopefully deliver a championship… except the opposite happened.

In the second quarter, Durant pulled up suddenly on a crossover move and then dropped to the floor clearly in pain. Replay appeared to show his calf cramp and shrivel up. He had to be helped off the floor and ultimately left the arena on crutches and in a boot. On Wednesday, Durant confirmed what I feared: an Achilles tendon rupture.

Now that he's had surgery, you can likely rule him out for the entire 2019-2020 season. Recovery from an Achilles tendon rupture and returning to high level sport is roughly 12 months after surgery. So naturally, the questions begin. Who is to blame? Did he rush his recovery? Was he truly ready?

We will likely never know, but I do think this offers a great opportunity to talk about the importance of allowing adequate time for full recovery. In my role as a sports physical therapist at Cook Children’s, I have the pleasure of working with kids and young adults of all ages usually trying to return to some level of sport. My day is typically filled with cases such as the volleyball player with an ankle sprain, the baseball pitcher with elbow pain, the soccer player recovering from an ACL reconstruction, the basketball player with a hamstring strain or the football player who fractured his leg.

I love my job. I love helping these patients get back to doing what they love. But I also recognize that I have a great responsibility to make sure that each patient is genuinely ready to resume their chosen sport.

The physicians I work with depend on my feedback to determine readiness. I’ve been “the bad guy” on more than one occasion and told a patient that I didn’t think he or she was quite ready to play in the tournament that weekend. It’s a tough position to be in, and I recognize that sometimes it’s not received well by both the parents and child, but I always come back to the responsibility and trust instilled in me to make sure that their child is truly ready to play.

We have tests and measures in physical therapy that we use to assess readiness, and we also can simulate game time situations in a controlled environment. I can never 100% guarantee that reinjury will not occur, but I want to be as close as possible. I don’t want that basketball player with the history of a hamstring strain to fully tear his hamstring. I don’t want that volleyball player with an ankle sprain to not have full strength back, change the way she jumps, and then land awkwardly and tear her ACL. On the day of their last appointment with me, I always tell each patient that I genuinely hope they never see me again in the clinic.

My motivation and ultimate goal is that each and every patient has full strength, control, awareness and confidence upon finishing physical therapy. If your child has suffered an injury, we are here to help. Our physical therapy staff collaborate with your physician to create and customize our plan to get your child back in the game. We have their best interests at heart and want to do everything possible to avoid reinjury. The process may feel long, but patience and persistence will certainly pay off.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 866-205-7270.

Get to know Melissa Bro

Melissa Bro, PT, DPT, SCS, is a physical therapist for the Cook Children's SPORTS Rehab program. 

If your child has been diagnosed with a sports-related condition, click here to find information on general risk factors, what symptoms to watch for, your options for treatment and how long recovery might take.

With locations in Fort Worth, Hurst and Mansfield, we have state-of-the-art equipment that adjusts to patients ranging from children to young adults. All locations offer individual evaluation rooms and a variety of flexibility, strengthening, plyometric and agility equipment.

Cook Children's offers a unique approach to care for children because we are one of the country's leading integrated pediatric health care systems. Patients benefit from this integrated system because it allows our staff to use all of its resources during treatment. It also improves communication between the various departments whose physicians are focused on caring for children and adolescents.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 866-205-7270.

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