After Paul George successfully underwent surgery to fix an open tibia-fibula fracture of his right leg, attention then shifted toward his sure to be grueling rehabilitation process. During the hours that immediately followed his procedure, numerous athletes, trainers, and surgeons familiar with George's type of injury offered up personal advice as well as professional opinion to various news outlets and mediums.
Hesitant to set any concrete timelines for his return to basketball related activities, many of the medical professionals consulted did provide some details regarding some of the physical hurdles George will have to overcome during his path to recovery:
NBA.com's Jeff Caplan spoke with Dr. T.O. Souryal, president of the NBA Team Physicians Association:
George, 24, faces an exhaustive rehabilitation process that begins immediately with simple, muscle-firing exercises that can be done from his hospital bed. As George moves away from early recovery challenges - such as infection - in the initial weeks following surgery, his rehab will escalate incrementally in intensity, complexity and duration as the bone heals over a period that typically spans 4-6 months. Souryal cautions that healing time for the tibia can be slow and involve complications, but he noted that for a young, well-conditioned athlete such as George, odds are high for a clean healing process.
Once the bone heals, the real work for George begins with what Souryal terms the late challenges. Regaining motion in his ankle and knee are crucial as George then begins the gradual strengthening process. A regimen that includes - at various phases - a stationary bike, walking on the underwater treadmill or zero-gravity treadmill and ultimately weight machines and leg presses is typical.
"During the recovery and healing, both of those joints can be involved in the injury, so he has to work on getting his mobility back, getting his knee moving normally and getting his ankle moving normally, and ultimately getting his strength back," Souryal said. "During the stages, sometimes you're on crutches, sometimes you're in a machine or in a cast and you suffer a tremendous amount of atrophy. Part of the recovery is going to involve strengthening, and that by itself takes a long time to get your strength back."
Bleacher Report's lead sports injury reporter Will Carroll spoke with Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, one of the top orthapedic physicians in sports medicine:
"It could take anywhere from six to 12 months to return to fully competitive basketball after such a fracture. He first requires a period of six weeks of being on crutches. Then the athlete gradually progresses to rehabilitation, physical therapy and cross training. Once the fracture healing is strong, the athlete will return for progressions to practice and games. Once completed, most athletes can perform at pre-injury levels."
Of course, due to the catastrophic nature of Paul George's injury, several athletes and trainers consulted over the past several hours and days have indicated that maintaining steadfastness of mind and overcoming fear can be just as trying as the physical aspects of the rehabilitation process:
Probable Paul George timetable: 3-4 months:cast. Walk: 6mos. Run: 9mos. Plyo:11mos. Bball activities: 12mos. Mental return? No timetable.— Tim S. Grover (@ATTACKATHLETICS) August 2, 2014
Bottom line on any serious athletic injury: The ultimate battle is mental, not physical. Bones heal.The mind has its own schedule.— Tim S. Grover (@ATTACKATHLETICS) August 2, 2014
Patrick Kersey, a physician at St. Vincent Performance and first doctor on the scene when Louisville's Kevin Ware suffered his serious leg injury, echoed a similar sentiment in conversation with the Indy Star's Michael Pointer:
"The thing that is hard-pressed to speculate on is the mental toll on an athlete and getting their confidence back," he said. "Getting back with other athletes and feeling comfortable in that situation is so important. Sometimes, that can be one of the biggest pieces in the overall recovery, the athlete's emotional stage."
Recovery - whether that means processing the long-term impact of injury, going through the healing process, or progressing through rehab - now presents itself as both an immense obstacle as well as an opportunity for personal and professional growth:
I know people are in shock from Paul George's injury. He will be able to bounce back bc he has a warrior mentality.— Shaun Livingston (@ShaunLivingston) August 2, 2014
I said the same about Derrick Rose. They both have youth on their side and sometimes these injuries can make you— Shaun Livingston (@ShaunLivingston) August 2, 2014
a stronger individual than before. It forces your mind to will the body to a place it hasn't experienced! I— Shaun Livingston (@ShaunLivingston) August 2, 2014
believe in Paul George and his recovery back to the top! 100— Shaun Livingston (@ShaunLivingston) August 2, 2014
Whether pressing on during his mother's grave battle or molding himself into an NBA All-Star, Paul George has proven himself, time and time again, to have a "warrior mentality," telling Huff Post Healthy Living back in May, "Whenever I feel like I've had a bad day, I think about my mom and it just strengthens me. I've got to keep going hard for my momma."
As the Pacers' young star attacks the long, arduous challenge of just getting back to being Paul George, perhaps adversity along with prior life experience will buoy him into becoming an even better version of himself.
Like Paul George, Sr. told the Indy Star's Candace Buckner, "He's already saying, 'Dad, I can't wait. When I get past this, I'm going to be even better.'"
For more details about Paul George's health status and the challenges ahead, make sure to check out the links: