Given the setback with Kevin Garnett’s knee, I thought it would be useful to revisit a tremendous interview Celtics Hub’s Zach Lowe conducted with an expert orthopedic surgeon Dr. Donald Rose about KG’s injury. I went through the exchange and specifically looked for answers pertaining to the time it takes an individual to recover from a posterior muscle strain and the extent one can recover fully during that length of time. I did this with a goal of finding evidence that would let me believe Garnett still has a good chance at coming back for the Playoffs at full strength. The entire interview is a great read that I strongly encourage everyone to take a look at, but here are the highlights I picked out from the back and forth.
CH: And with rest, is this injury something you can come back from and be 100 percent, or does it always linger?
Dr. Rose: Absolutely, he can come back 100 percent. There are some muscle strains that linger a long, long time, but those usually involve the hamstring–and usually the portion that is up higher in the thigh, not behind the knee. They say you never get cured of a hamstring injury. But for calf strains behind the knee–those have the potential for a full recovery.
CH: Does this kind of injury ever require surgery?
DR: No, there’s no surgery that would ever be contemplated. That’s for sure. The only invasive procedure that has reared its head lately involves platelet rich plasma, where doctors take your own blood, take out one component and inject it into the injured area–mostly for elbow, muscle or ligament strains.
CH: The team said the injury had been bothering Garnett for a couple of weeks. Is that typical?
DR: Yes. You can have a very mild muscle strain, and then it can be exacerbated by putting too much force on it. A little injury becomes bigger.
CH: The team is saying KG will be back in two or three weeks. Is that a reasonable recovery time?
DR: It really depends on how badly it’s injured. A very mild strain takes two or three weeks to heal. If it’s a moderate strain, it could be four weeks, and if it’s severe, it could take up to six weeks. If you come back too soon, you run the risk of aggravating the injury and starting from ground zero.
Analysis of Dr. Rose’s Answers: Those answers are pretty encouraging in my estimation, but let’s do some math here to make us all feel better. Garnett suffered the injury on February 19th against Utah. He returned March 20th against San Antonio. That is four weeks right there. Now according to Dr. Rose, that is enough recovery time for a moderate strain but if this was a severe strain which generally requires six weeks of healing, KG may have jumped the gun on his return.
If this was the case, Celtics fan can at least be thankful that Garnett is likely not back to “ground zero” in his recovery. Let’s remember that KG was able to play (quite well for that matter) in his four games since returning. Now he clearly had some extreme soreness since those games, but was at least able to play through the pain in practice (perhaps foolishly) before Doc decided to shut him down.
Perk described him as looking 70 percent during practice, which on the surface sounds discouraging. However, 70 percent is far from ground zero. This in my eyes is a good thing when you look at the how the setback will affect Garnett a few weeks down the road
Dr. Rose also seemed adamant that it is completely possible to come back at 100 percent from this injury. I point this out since it is likely many Celtics fan are worrying that this injury will linger for KG for the rest of the year.
There are many injuries which can limit players for months even years after they are cleared to return. This was the case just this past summer with David Ortiz, as a a broken wrist limited his power for the final 2 months of the season once he came back. With an injury like that, you might need a full year to entirely recover from the lingering pain and regain full strength. With Garnett’s knee strain, it does not appear that kind of situation is probable despite his recent soreness.
Therefore I remain confident right now that Garnett can be back at full strength in the playoffs. In fact I would implore Doc Rivers to be overly cautious and rest the Big Ticket for the remainder of the regular season. Let him work off the rust in the 1st round of the playoffs. Even with KG only playing 20-25 minutes, the Celtics should be able to defeat any potential 1st round foe in a 7 game series.
One final reason I would encourage the extended rest is because of this team’s experience. This is not last year when the starting five were still learning how to play effectively with each other and were pushed to the brink in the first two rounds. It is one year later now and they have all developed a very nice understanding of each other’s game which showed in their dominance in the 1st half of this season.
So why risk having Garnett come back before you really need to at the end of the regular season? Give KG the extra rest and increase his chances at being 100 percent. The closer the Big Ticket is to that, the higher this team’s likelihood is of getting back to the Finals.