By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Delaying a phase of rehab does not obviate it. In some ways, putting off the inevitable only increases some uncertainties.
Derrick Rose was given all the information from Bulls doctors, trainers and management about how and when to return from the kind of knee reconstruction that has become part of the routine business of professional sports. It was explained to him that the most significant part of the process was the resumption of full-speed NBA game action, and then learning to manage how the knee responded.
He didn’t want to play last year, so he waited. In the time since he was medically cleared to continue his comeback in real games, the Bulls have conducted strange, parallel campaigns: publicly blustering about their unwavering support for whatever their star chooses, while privately trying in vain to keep him on the prescribed path as multiple levels of the organization grew increasingly frustrated.
First they applied a bit of pressure to send the message that it was time to do as Dr. Brian Cole instructed, but they backed off quickly when Rose’s camp reacted more negatively and forcefully than anticipated. There were grumbles after practices that saw his quickness, explosiveness and lift in evidence, and after he was re-examined to confirm that he was medically right on track and ready for the final step.
Rose didn’t help himself by moving the goalposts, either. First he said he’d play when he could dunk off his left leg, then it was playing against double-teams, then finally waiting for some kind of divine vision – a beam of light from whichever heavenly department handles basketball games.
That eventually came, we assume, because Rose is playing once again.
But what has happened since the injury and since the green light he received and ignored last winter is of little consequence, now. What matters is the clear understanding that this course is unpredictable, and requires as much mental awareness as physical dedication.
Rose’s soreness over the weekend is not a big deal, as it was entirely expected. There will be more missed practices and games this season, so it makes no sense to extrapolate any larger conclusions from such typical, day-to-day experiences.
Anyone who has had the middle third of his/her patellar tendon removed to be screwed into place as a new ACL has heard something like this from the surgeon: the remodeling of the knee takes time, and every milestone and setback allow for valuable communication between the brain and the newly-positioned tissue in the joint. Just because something doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong – it just takes repetition and experience to reset to something close to natural proprioception.
The patient has to be an active participant in all of this, sharing information openly and often with all parties involved to shape the best possible care. Even mere civilians require the work of several skilled professionals to guide them back from this injury, so a finely-tuned athlete worth half a billion dollars takes a village.
Doctors can look at MRIs, and athletic trainers can monitor the mechanical aspects of range of motion, swelling and flexibility. They deal with the objective.
For Rose at this point, the battle is an equally subjective one as he just now initiates the critical, final period of his rehabilitation during which his mind and his knee will forge new connections. The physical therapists will help as he works to bring those two components back together.
He will learn that it’s no longer about the knee feeling back to normal, but instead redefining what that means.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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