Kevin Durant's breaking news over this weekend that he had suffered a fracture in his foot has sent ripples throughout the NBA community, as the league MVP will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks and miss the first 20+ games of the season. While we are still sorting out what this means for the Thunder as a whole, the immediate concern is to understand better the nature of Durant's condition, how long recovery will take, and what it means for his playing future.
Thunder fans are likely feeling a sense of deja vu, since last season, it was Russell Westbrook's knee injury that kept everything in flux. Fortunately, level headed medical professionals chimed in to calm those fears, and Westbrook recovered in time to produce a dominant post season.
One of those medical experts is friend of WTLC, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. David Geier. Dr. Geier shared his medical expertise extensively with Thunder fans a year ago to provide level-headed perspective on the nature of injury and recovery. Once again, we turn to Dr. Geier to answer a few questions about Durant and his prognosis. Please note that Dr. Geier is NOT involved in Durant's surgical repair or recovery. Rather, he is an expert in sports injury and recovery and so he offers a dispassionate opinion on the road that Durant faces in the upcoming months.
Kevin Durant was diagnosed as suffering a "Jones Fracture." Can you please explain what this is and how it likely occurred?
Dr. Geier: A Jones fracture is a fracture of the base of the fifth metatarsal. This is the long bone on the outside of the foot (on the side of the little toe). The fracture occurs in an area with tension forces that tend to pull the ends of the fracture apart. It is an area of the bone with a fairly poor blood supply. These factors make these fractures prone to not healing if treated in a cast or a boot. It can either occur with repetitive stress over time, as a stress fracture, or from an inversion injury to the foot and ankle.
Thunder GM Sam Presti said this is the type of injury that happened over time. Typically how long does this type of fracture take to form, and what might have happened if Durant had not brought it to the attention of team doctors when he did?
Dr. Geier: A stress fracture of the base of the fifth metatarsal can develop over several weeks. It is actually fairly common in basketball, football and soccer players with repetitive stress on the area without enough time to heal. In theory, if an athlete develops a stress fracture of this area and continues to play, the repetitive impact could cause a nonunion of the stress fracture. Typically, though, the pain limits an athlete's ability to play through it.
Thunder GM Sam Presti described a "Jones Fracture" as the most common surgical procedure performed on NBA players as of late." What does this mean for the surgical procedure itself in terms of success rate?
Dr. Geier: These are common fractures in basketball players, but they occur in other athletes as well. Nonsurgical treatment tends to take longer in terms of getting the bone to heal, and it presents a higher risk of nonunion. Orthopedic surgeons have gradually shifted to proceeding with surgery early with these fractures in athletes.
Durant is expected to miss 6-8 weeks for recovery. What will he need to do post-procedure to make a full recovery?
Dr. Geier: There is little an athlete can do to speed the healing other than limiting impact on the bone as it heals and not returning too soon.
What is the likelihood of full recovery, will there be any future limitations on Durant's performance, and does this injury increase the risk of it (or other injuries) from occurring in the future?
Dr. Geier: Generally this surgery has good success rates, even in top athletes. If the fracture heals, there should be little risk of any limitations on an athlete's performance on the court or field. There is little risk of this fracture leading an athlete to suffer another injury. The most likely negative outcome would be that the fracture does not heal. On rare occasions, even with surgery, a nonunion occurs. In those cases the surgeon can remove the screw that was placed down the center of the bone and replace it with a bigger one. He might also add some bone graft from the hip or another area into the fracture site.