Contrary to what the talking heads on ESPN said over the weekend, Derrick Rose did not suffer another torn “ligament” or a torn “medical” meniscus.
The medial meniscus in his right knee is the structure involved. It is not a ligament, but instead a piece of cartilage that sits between the tibia (shin bone) and femur (thigh bone) to cushion and guide movement of the knee. Anchored to the top of the tibia, the medial and lateral menisci were once thought to be relatively unimportant structures.
If either was torn or frayed, it was routinely excised, partially or completely.
Now we know better — and that knowledge is of no comfort to those who were hoping for a rapid Rose return.
Smaller tears are still trimmed via arthroscopy. However, because significant or complete loss of either meniscus accelerates arthritis and shortens careers, the trend in orthopedic surgery is to do what Rose had done yesterday — a repair.
Consequently, Rose will miss the remainder of the season. Rather than the 2-6 weeks needed following a partial meniscectomy, he now faces weeks of limited weight-bearing and range of motion to allow the repair to heal. That means muscular atrophy which will necessitate months of rehabilitation to rebuild those muscles.
Furthermore, Rose’s recovery from surgery to reconstruct his torn left ACL just became more complicated.
To date, the pundits have been unimpressed. In 2011-12, Rose averaged 35.3 minutes, 21.8 points, 7.9 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. Through 10 games this season, his statistics are 31.1 minutes, 15.9 points, 4.3 assists, and 0.5 steals.
The current issue of Sports Health includes a study conducted by Bulls doctors examining recovery from ACL reconstruction among NBA players. (Rose’s injury was not included because the data went through the end of the 2010-11 season.)
Had Chicago’s knights of the keyboard read it, they may still have been disappointed by Rose but not surprised.
Simply put, up until this newer injury, Rose was posting typical post-op numbers. The Sports Health article reports that while most professional basketball players return to the court after ACL reconstruction, it is not at the same level.
The authors blame the aging process as much as the ACL injury. However, age remains on Rose’s side. At 25, he still has time to return to MVP form. Nonetheless, after an 18-month absence, Rose was obviously not yet fully accustomed to the speed of the game.
This new absence will only complicate that process. Even when it seems to be complete, Rose will never be fully out of the woods.
When Rose limped off the court Friday night, the first thought on everyone’s mind was another ACL tear. More than a few media observers expressed genuine shock that such bad luck could occur again to Rose.
Luck has little to do with it. Once one tears an ACL, he or she is four times more likely to suffer the same misfortune in the opposite knee than somebody who has never suffered the injury at all. As for the injured side, the chance of tearing the graft is only two times greater. Finally, the failure rate for meniscal repair over the course of five years — according to a study published last year in the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery — is just under 25 percent.
Sobering numbers for Bulls fans currently inclined to drown their sorrows.
John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT