Reggie Jackson resumes basketball activities

Reggie Jackson, after being sidelined by knee tendinitis at the start of the season, could return in as soon as two weeks after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee, according to CBS Detroit.

He has already resumed light basketball-related activities after morning shootaround on November 7th in Los Angeles. Jackson was expected to miss six to eight weeks.

The Breakdown

Reggie won't be healthy right off the bat, and seeing as how this is a chronic issue he's been dealing with since college, his knees might become even more of an issue as the season goes on. I guess it depends on how much you believe in PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy.

So what is PRP?

Slight medical detour here for those interested in the efficacy of PRP. First popularized in the NBA by Kobe Bean Bryant, who opted for a German Regenokine PRP procedure, PRP is blood plasma enriched with platelets that help stimulate bone and soft tissue healing for individuals with tendon injuries or forms of arthritis. Part of the reason why it's become so popular nowadays, other than the Mamba endorsement, is that it's a non-surgical procedure, making it a much safer and less invasive alternative to surgery. Basically, your own blood is taken out, mixed up with tiny disks called platelets that help form blood clots around injured areas, and then shot back into you. It's low risk, and is endorsed by many high-profile athletes (such as Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Troy Polamalu, Tyson Gay, Rafael Nadal, and many more).

But there are reports that it may not be as effective as advertised. From New York Times article "Popular Blood Therapy May Not Work" (2010):

Tendon disorders, the focus of the [Journal of the American Medical Association and The American Journal of Sports Medicine] studies, account for as many as half of sports injuries . . . Tendons heal slowly, if at all, and may keep people away from their sport for long periods.

In their study, Dr. Tol, Dr. Robert J. de Vos of the Hague Medical Center and colleagues recruited 54 people with Achilles' tendons that had been hurting at least two months. On average, they had symptoms for more than six months and had stopped doing their sport for three months.

The participants were randomly assigned to have an injection of platelets or saline. They also were instructed to use the only treatment shown to be at all effective: eccentric contraction exercises -- in this case, standing on a step and lowering the heel, which they were to do 180 times a day.

Six months later, patients in both groups improved. Their pain was an average of 20 points less on a 100 point scale. Two-thirds to three-quarters had returned to their sport. But there was no difference between saline and the platelet injections.

The bottom line is: Jackson's been dealing with chronic knee issues for most of his professional career, and while PRP has a lot of anecdotal support in athletic communities, it doesn't have the same support in medical communities. Could we see a rejuvenated Jackson this year after a month or two or reacclimating to NBA speed? Of course. But I could also see Jackson then deteriorating as the playoffs get closer. 82 games is an eternity for bad knees. Playing one or two rounds at the most intense level possible right after an 82 game season? Not good. It's a real possibility that Jackson might have already passed his physical peak as far as durability. Look at what happened to Danny Granger, who essentially had to retire at 30 from chronic knee issues.

 

Granger was a monster in his prime, one of the 10 best pure scorers in the league. But his prime was very, very short. Maybe Reggie's knees aren't quite as bad, but the point is, we don't know. What we do know is that Detroit needs Jackson, and they need him at his best. The Jackson/Drummond pick-and-roll is the foundation of Detroit's offense, and Jackson's on-ball defense is the spearhead of their defensive schemes. Drummond might be Detroit's most indispensable piece, but Jackson is their best player, and Detroit has invested a huge part of their cap space to keep him around (Detroit extended him to a 5 year/$80 million contract last season). If Jackson's best years are behind him, the Pistons will not sit around and make Ish Smith their guy. They will move someone valuable -- one of the Harris/Morris duo plus Ellenson, maybe -- to find a replacement, and that replacement might not be as good as Jackson. Jackson has his flaws, but Detroit can't afford to lose him.

The Pistons have gone about this the right way, despite fears that Jackson is returning too early. From a CBS Detroit report:

Coach Stan Van Gundy said that he isn't trying to rush Jackson back into the rotation and that he's allowing team doctors to handle the rehab process. "Whenever they tell me he's ready to go -- when they tell me he can go in practice -- I'm just following them," Van Gundy said before Monday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

And maybe all this worry is for nothing. Maybe Detroit's doctors give Jackson the perfect timetable, his PRP therapy does wonders, and he continues to play at a high level until he's deep in his 30s. I just think it's worth considering how disastrous the flip-side would be. The only question is how likely, or unlikely, that armageddon scenario is. But only Jackson knows how bad his knees really are. The rest of us are forced to sit and wait. Best case scenario? A Dwyane Wade-type career readjustment after suffering chronic knee issues. Worst case scenario? Danny Granger.

The Detroit Pistons (4-3) play the Phoenix Suns (2-5) at 9:00 PM Eastern Time November 9th.


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