The wind came out of the Golden State Warriors’ sails early on draft day when Klay Thompson hurt his Achilles tendon during a pickup game in Los Angeles. Thompson missed all of last year after tearing his ACL during Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and had been working towards returning in time for the 2020-2021 season.
His injury means he will miss two-consecutive seasons in his prime. Klay will be 31 by the time the 2021-22 season begins and will not have played an NBA game in roughly 28 months if he is ready by October of 2021.
Thompson tore the ACL in his left knee in 2019, but the current injury happened to his right leg, meaning his body could have been overcompensating for the older injury.
“There’s increased risk due to compensation across what we call the kinetic chain,” Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT of 3cbperformance.com said. “It’s never surprising to me to see someone suffer another injury, or a significant injury after they’ve already had one in their lower body.”
Brar has worked with several top-end athletes and says he has seen these types of injuries occur all too frequently. Brar gave an example of the rotten injury luck a former Warrior recently went through in DeMarcus Cousins.
“He had the Achilles injury while with the Pelicans, then he had the quad, and then he had the Achilles rupture,” Brar said. “So it can kind of set off this vicious cycle, and so in Klay’s case, it was not surprising to me.”
Who knows what would have happened if the NBA’s calendar didn’t alter due to the pandemic. Thompson would have been back on the court with his teammates many months earlier if the season started in October as it does just during normal circumstances.
The league shutdown gave Thompson some extra time with his recovery, but it also could have hindered things when it came to how his body responded to the increase in workload with just over a month to go before the season is set to begin.
“He knows training camps coming, so my guess is he was now ramping up back to an intensity level that’s getting closer and closer to that game-like intensity,” Brar said. “You’re putting more stress on the body, which comes with increased risk. If you combine his existing risk after the ACL with that ramp up risk, and it increases the danger of another injury.”
The typical return-time for an Achilles injury is nine months, and the Dubs’ medical staff is confident he will make a full recovery. By that time, it will have been more than two years since Thompson has stepped on an NBA court. Klay will have a tremendous challenge not only recovering from the injuries but working his way back into game shape.
“I think the big the positive for Klay (Thompson) is that he never really relied too much on athleticism, which is which is a key factor for him in terms of his or his recovery,” Brar said. “I think the question becomes really is will he be able to now maintain some level of health moving forward.”
We won’t know the answer to that question for quite some time with Thompson out until next August, at least. If Klay is ready to go for the start of the 2021-22 season, will we see the five-time All-Star be the same type of player?
“With an ACL, we know that you don’t typically get back to your pre-injury levels until 18 months to 24 months,” Brad said. “And now with an Achilles, we know it’s almost the same timeframe. So, now you’ve doubled, you have both of those things playing a part. If we do see Klay get back to his level, it might not be for at least another year or two.”
Dr. Brar breaks it all down in this video: