What Rose’s torn ACL means in the short and long term

Written by on April 29, 2012 in Hoops, Injuries, Playoffs - 5 Comments

Bulls guard Derrick Rose hobbles off the floor with a torn ACL during a 103-91 win over the 76ers.

So, Derrick Rose has a torn ACL and is out for the season. It’s a terrible blow to Chicago, who had high hopes coming in and must now limp through the remainder of the playoffs. But, what does this injury mean for Derrick and the Bulls in the long term?

I’m no doctor, but here is the gist of it: Basically, the ACL is one of the ligaments that holds the entire knee together. It’s main purpose is to absorb the impact taken when the knee rotates (like during cuts) and to keep the knee from moving too far forward or backward. Often times, and what I would guess in this case, players require surgery to repair the torn cartilage ligament. What does this all mean? Probably about 6-9 months of rehabbing until we can expect to see Derrick back on the court. I’d put it at somewhere around the All-Star Break.

But, the real concern for the Bulls is how it’s going to impact Derrick in the long term. One of the hardest parts about coming back from a knee injury is the time it takes the player to feel comfortable making typical basketball plays. This is especially important for a player like Rose, who relies so much on his absurd quickness to beat you to the hoop. Even more, it’s a real concern how Rose will feel about going up with reckless abandon and finishing on those circus shots that have become a staple of his game. When Chris Paul came back from his knee injury — a torn meniscus, so not exactly the same as the situation we have here — he had to learn a different style of play. Whether or not Derrick will face the same decision and, further, is obviously impossible to know. The one thing he has going for him is the fact that he’s arguably one of the hardest workers in the NBA and will do anything he can to return to play at a high level.

There have been a number of players who have successfully returned from ACL reconstruction surgery, including Jamal Crawford (who, coincidentally, also suffered the tear while playing for the Bulls), Al Jefferson, Nene Hilario, Kendrick Perkins, Kyle Lowry and David West. Most of these players don’t really rely on their explosiveness to dominate, so it’s tough to draw comparisons. Probably the closest is Jamal Crawford, who is known for having a nasty crossover. But he relies on more of a shake-and-bake style rather than using pure speed to get to the rim. However, Crawford has returned from his injury and succeeded, averaging over 17ppg in seven of his eleven seasons following surgery. His injury also occurred early in his career, so there is plenty of hope left for Bulls fans. Rose will likely have to adjust his game, but that isn’t necessarily the worst thing for a player known for playing with no regard for his own body.

Studies done on NBA players returning from ACL injuries paint a similarly positive outlook. Of 27 players studied who had surgically repaired ACLs from the ’93-’94 to ’04-’05 seasons, 21 returned to action (it’s probably safe to assume Rose will not be in the 22% to never play again). Of that group, 4 had an increase in preinjury PER (player efficiency rating), 5 remained within 1 point of their preinjury PER, and 12 had a decrease of more then 1 point in preinjury PER. The study notes that the only categories that were affected by a statistically significant degree were games played (logically), field goal percentage, and turnovers. So, the numbers don’t necessarily indicate that Rose will never be able to reach the levels he’s played at for his first 4 (3.5?) seasons. Though, I still believe he will have to adapt his game due to the injury. Whether he will ever attain his MVP-caliber level is anyones guess.

I will be the first to admit, I went a little bit nuts at Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau following the play. My immediate reaction was outrage at the fact Rose was still in what was seemingly a meaningless game at that point. But, in hindsight, Thibs was probably right keeping him in. “I don’t work backwards like you guys do,” Thibodeau said. “The score was going the other way.” The 76ers had pulled within 12 with 1:20 remaining and it was important for the Bulls to put them away, especially in the first game of the series. The fact that it was a non-contact injury means that it could have occurred at any time, so I don’t think it was necessarily the wrong move on Thibodeau’s part.

But, it was an injury that’s probably going to cost the Bulls a chance at a title this year and may have far-reaching impacts on Chicago hoops for the next several seasons.

 Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19664500, http://www.nba.com/features/abdenour_aclessay.htmlhttp://www.quora.com/How-many-NBA-players-have-had-successful-careers-after-ACL-surgery

5 Comments on "What Rose’s torn ACL means in the short and long term"

  1. Zaf May 2, 2012 at 12:40 am · Reply

    You said in line 10: “torn cartilage” — it’s not cartilage it’s a ligament. Very important to maintain that distinction. Cartilage repair is actually faster to when it comes to full rehabiliation and useful performance. Ligaments when they are complete tears require surgery and need ligament from a donor site. Best of luck to DRose– my hearts breaking for this year…

    • Jeff Dennhardt May 2, 2012 at 4:45 am · Reply

      Much appreciated. I lack medical background, so always good to be sure I’m using the correct terms. Thanks!

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