In the wake of Jeremy Lin rupturing his right patellar tendon during Wednesday’s season opener, a specialist told The Post it’s reasonable to think the Nets point guard could be back on the court next season, but there’s no guarantee the 29-year-old will ever regain his full form.
“A number of things have to happen,” said Dr. James Gladstone, orthopedic surgeon and co-chief of sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “One, it has to be healed back into place. Second, you have to have the right tension in that tendon. If it heals and it’s stretched out, it doesn’t matter how strong your quadriceps are, you can’t generate the same force through the knee.
“For someone who has to twist, sprint, jump and pivot, the rehab’s going to be longer and more involved. The problem is even though the injury is the same … how it happens to each person, how it heals, how as an individual they respond to injury can be very different. Somebody like Jeremy Lin could make a 100 percent recovery, or he could end up like Victor Cruz, only playing at 80 percent of past potential. You can’t predict that type of thing, that individual biology.”
The Cruz comparison is apt. Injuries to the patellar tendon, which anchors the thigh’s quad muscle to the shin, are more common in the NFL. The likes of Cruz, Jerod Mayo, Cadillac Williams, Ryan Williams and Jets safety Marcus Gilchrist all failed to return to old form following such injuries within the past few years.
But the most recent NBA player to suffer a full patellar tendon rupture was Caron Butler in 2010-11, according to ESPN. And how well Lin — a player who relies on agility and dexterity — recovers also will be determined by the severity of the rupture.
“If the tendon is ripped directly off the bone — off the kneecap is most typical, or sometimes off the shinbone —… that’s the best scenario, because the bulk of the tendon’s intact. You can stitch it back in place,” Gladstone told The Post. “When the rip is in the middle, it’s more difficult and trickier to put it back together. … When [tendons] rip you end up with two mop ends.”
Hamstring woes limited Lin to just 36 games last season in the first year of a three-year, $36 million deal. Now he will miss the second year and presumably would be less likely to opt out of the third. The Nets are under the salary cap, so they can’t apply for a disabled player exception until they are about to sign or trade for a player making $3.4 million to push them over the cap by the Jan. 15 deadline.