Cooler Talk: Microfracture Surgery

I was looking around for some information on microfracture surgery and stumbled upon this bit of research done by Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus.  It hasn't been updated in a while, but it's very interesting stuff.  Take a look at it, and then read the jumbled thoughts below.

Tracy_mcgrady_back08_medium

Apparently, it's really cool to jump now...

T-Mac will be out at least 6-12 months, possibly longer.  While there have been many notable failed comeback attempts (see that link), the Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen points out that McGrady may have a few things working in his favor:

The procedure is considered much less risky for McGrady because the joint surface damage unprotected by the usual amount of cartilage is less than a half centimeter, requiring less cartilage replacement, and because the lesion is on a non-weight bone bearing bone beneath the kneecap.

[Rockets team physician Dr. Tom Clanton] also was optimistic because he said McGrady has an otherwise "great looking" knee joint in the weight bearing parts of the joint, with normal ligaments and meniscus cartilages.

I'm not going to try to be an internet doctor here, because I don't know anything about the particulars of microfracture surgery.   It's also tough to try to predict the outcome of T-Mac's rehab solely based on past subjects, but I'll try.  Based off of Pelton's study, there are a few factors that may have contributed to other successes/failures:

  • Karl Malone never came back from the surgery...but he was 40
  • John Stockton came back at age 35...but he was never active around the rim, therefore relieving his knees of a lot of stress
  • Allan Houston came back for a season and put up decent numbers...but then he fell off the face of the earth.  Yet, who's to say he wasn't going to naturally decline anyway in his mid-thirties.  He also rushed the comeback and only missed 4.5 months.
  • Amare and Greg Oden had the surgery done when they were very young, therefore increasing their chances of a successful comeback.

The two failures that stand out to me are Terrell Brandon and Jamal Mashburn, two players who, like McGrady, were either 30 years old or one year away/removed.  Brandon and Mashburn were high-flyers that relied on athleticism for a good part of their production.  While McGrady does have a decent jump shot and good ball handling skills, his speed and ability to rise up against opponents made him a lethal scorer.  His lack of both attributes killed any paint production he once had, and effectively, this is what he is trying to fix with this surgery.  Based off of the cases of Brandon and Mashburn, or even Penny Hardaway and Darius Miles, a player like McGrady hasn't fared well in this surgical process.

But then again, I am not a doctor, and there could have been many, many factors that contributed to the aforementioned cases.  And like Feigen said, there is reason for optimism in McGrady's case.

However, while McGrady may be looking to regain his lost hops, it may not be as "simple" as microfracture surgery.  Even if the procedure is a complete success, the odds of McGrady ever flying as high as he once did are slim.  In order to truly be productive again, if he indeed comes back, Tracy will need to change his game entirely.  He tried to incorporate changes in his on-court movement during his brief rehab assignment a month ago, but his knee simply couldn't take it.  With a healthier knee, maybe he will be able to truly find a way to be productive without jumping over people, though I will miss those days.

To add yet another question mark to this subject, will McGrady ever don a Rockets uniform ever again?  Say it takes a full 12 months for him to fully recover.  That puts us at the trade deadline, and many speculate that McGrady's attractive expiring contract will give us a good reason to move him.  Even if McGrady does play again, chances are, it won't be for the Rockets.  But that's a whole different subject, many months in the future.  Hopefully, he'll be back before we have to deal with that.

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