The NBA lost one of its brightest young stars on Wednesday to a major injury. Victor Oladipo, guard for the Indiana Pacers, suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right leg when playing defense against the Toronto Raptors on January 24th. Although some former NBA players have suffered the same type of injury, it is rare among basketball players.
The quadriceps tendon is the large tendon just above the knee cap. It is thick, strong, and is part of the extensor mechanism of the knee. A quadriceps tendon rupture in sports, typically occurs due to an eccentric contraction of the quadriceps while the knee is being straightened. In basketball, this can happen upon landing after attempting a rebound, block, or perhaps, taking a jump shot. After the injury occurs, the individual will not be able to straighten the leg without help. There may even be a visible divot or gap just above the knee.
The road to recovery from a quad tendon rupture is typically a long one, with surgery being the first step. During surgery, the tendon is sutured back to its attachment on the patella (kneecap). After surgery, the leg is placed in a brace for typically 3 months (case dependent). Depending on the surgeon’s orders, range of motion exercises can be performed in the early post-operative period under the guidance of a Physical Therapist. Once the brace is removed, flexibility and strength exercise will begin. Progression through these exercises will depend on the individual and the healing process. After the individual has regained full ROM and strength has improved enough, sport specific exercises can begin.
Rehabilitation can be lengthy, but for an athlete it may be much harder to regain the level at which they were pre-injury. Oladipo may be looking at 12 months before he is able to return to 100% at his high level of play.