By Charlie Roumeliotis
When Derrick Rose tore his ACL in April 2012, many feared whether he could play at an MVP-type level like he had been pre-injury.
But after undergoing another season-ending surgery, this time to repair a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, the Bulls point guard's chances to return to his form may not be as good as it was the first time.
“It might not heal,” Dr. Derek Ochiai, an orthopedic surgeon at the Nirschl Orthopaedic Center in Arlington, Va., told SportingNews. “The success rate for meniscal tears is not close to 100 percent, but the younger somebody is, being an athlete, a non-smoker—those things help so there is less of a chance of it not healing. If you follow the protocol and limit range of motion, and you brace appropriately, use crutches appropriately, all those things, it is still about an 80 percent chance it heals, maybe 85 percent. If it doesn’t, he has to either do a re-repair or take out the torn part.”
Dr. Ochiai has no direct involvement in Rose's surgery, but he has performed meniscus surgeries similar to Rose's. Although Rose has suffered two serious knee injuries, Dr. Ochiai warns against labeling the former league MVP as injury prone. Instead, Ochiai believes Rose may be simply catching bad breaks.
“An ACL tear in one knee, and a meniscus tear in the other, that is not necessarily connected,” he said. “Looking at Derrick Rose, I would say that it is purely bad luck at this point. Part of it is, athletes are bigger, faster, more explosive, but that puts more pressure on the knee because of the way they play—their movement, their cutting, their change of direction. It predisposes you to meniscus tears or ACL tears. It’s like you’re cramming the engine of a Ferrari into a Yugo. It might make the Yugo go faster, but you are still going to have structural problems.”
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While the rehab doesn't require an intense process like the ACL injury, Dr. Ochiai says Rose will have to be more cautious with his rehab following a meniscus tear.
“If you do the repair, sew it back, you have to be much more careful,” Dr. Ochiai said. “You have to get that meniscal cartilage to heal, and we know that the meniscus is not robust in its healing. It takes a lot of time for it to heal. … From a medical standpoint, yes, he could come back quicker. But one of the things I really don’t think is beneficial with a surgery like this is putting artificial timetables on the recovery. With Derrick Rose, I would most definitely give it plenty of time.”
Chase Budinger and Gilbert Arenas are two recent examples of NBA players who have experienced problems with their meniscus during the healing process.