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Ruptured Achilles: Elliot Williams as a case study

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We know that a torn (ruptured) achilles tendon is an extremely serious basketball injury — one which most have come back, although sometimes at a lesser level of performance and always after the passage of a significant amount of time.

Various things have been said about the recovery timeline for an NBA player stricken by the injury. "Six to nine months" seems to be the official house estimate, which would put Grandmaster Kobe on a timeline for a Christmas return, give or take.

But is this prognosis optimistic? In September 2012 Dr. Mark Schwartz of Virtua Hospitals' sports medicine program in New Jersey indicated that only about 2/3 of National Football League players were ever able to return to the field following a ruptured Achilles and that the average comeback time was 11 months, with a minimum of 7 months needed for recovery.

It occurred to me this morning that there is actually a wing player on the Portland Trailblazers who suffered a similar injury to Kobe's back last fall, undergoing surgery on September 14. Elliot Williams, 23, is a 6'5" Wing with a vaguely similar physique and game to a certain 6'6" Laker.

How has Williams faired on the road to recovery?

Ben Golliver of SSR's sister blog Blazers' Edge was on hand for Williams' exit interview in Portland yesterday. Here is what he had to say when asked about his progress exactly six months after the injury:

"In workouts I feel pretty good, it's just the strength in my left leg. One of my main things is explosion. I'm pretty explosive right now but it's not completely there 100%. Probably another month I'll be back to 100%... My Achilles is probably completely healed, it's just the muscles around it you've got to get stronger."

This is an excellent comparative benchmark for Kobe, I feel — about 7 months, or, in time for the Christmas start of the "real" NBA season.

Keep the faith.

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