Was Kevin Durant's Achilles Tear Preventable?

If you by chance followed the recent NBA playoffs, one of the biggest topics of controversy was whether or not Kevin Durant should have played game 5 of the finals.

As the physical therapist and rehab coordinator for the Los Angeles Football Club, I could not help but try to put myself in the same position and ask myself, "What would I do?"

As a recap, Durant injured his calf about 4 1/2 weeks prior in one of the earlier rounds playoffs. He was taken out of that game and from all accounts in the media, the Golden State Warriors said his injury was relatively minor to moderate in severity.

I don't expect sports teams to divulge the exact magnitude of this kind of information but I'm assuming their stance in the media was because his MRI was not that bad. "Not that bad" probably meaning the tissue disruption was not significant enough to say, "Uh Oh!"

With that being said, people always want to know "How Long Will He Be Out?"

This is the first question I get from the player, his teammates, coaches and management.

Personally, I try not to give an estimate until I have full exam findings and how the athlete's symptoms and functional abilities over the next few days after the initial injury.

Knowing that calf injuries can be really nagging, it's at the end of a long season where there is a lot of overall fatigue, Durant is 6'9" with enormously long limbs with different mechanics from you and I, and playing in a sport that requires explosive running, cutting and jumping.... this was going to be a tough one to rehab in time for the finals!

Durant did his rehab with the team's physical therapist and performance director, who has the reputation of being a really knowledgeable and well respected expert. From a functional standpoint, it took him a while to get back on the court, which I would have expected. The news reported that he practiced 1-2x with the team (still with discomfort and limitations) the week he returned to playing with the team.

In contrast, with the soccer team, we typically do not let our players return to games with muscular injuries until they have trained fully for 1-2 weeks, depending on how long they were out in the first place. This is the closest way to assessing whether or not they can tolerate the demands of a competitive match.

With that being said, you might say it was crazy for Golden State to play Kevin Durant as early as they did. From a medical standpoint, there was definitely inherent risk, and I hope that was communicated to all parties involved. You also have to think of the magnitude of the situation and the player... there was no "easy" decision.

At the end of the day, none of us know the specifics of the original injury, how it progressed, and the decision-making process made by his medical team and technical staff.

So could they have prevented his achilles injury???... We may never know.


Every situation is different and should be individually assessed.

Because we are talking about achilles injuries, I wanted to share with you David W.'s story.

With the goal of being mobile and active again so he could get back to basketball again, he turned to us to help him on his journey.

Not only were we able to get him back on the court, we were able to resolve other injuries that hampered him for years.

You can contrast Kevin Durant's achilles surgery vs. David's non-surgical rehab. With both of their goals of returning to basketball, you also have to take into consideration their individual situations.

One of the biggest concerns we get from our clients calling HealthFit is that they do not want surgery... or they are undecided whether they should have it or not.

Like I said, it really depends. Depending if your orthopedic surgeon is aggressive or not, many feel surgery fixes everything like it's a "magic bullet".

As skilled rehab specialists, we tend to lean towards the conservative route for most cases.

In the following video, Dr. Daphne and I discuss this topic, the "un-success" rates of back and knee surgeries, and advice for you and your loved ones that are undergoing this dilemma.

Jason Han, DPT, Co-owner