NBA Roundtable

Suns On Amare Stoudemire’s Knee

In General NBA on January 7, 2011 at 9:11 am

Some interesting quotes from a NY Times article.

First some background:

Stoudemire, 28, is playing at his peak, averaging 26.4 points, 9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks for the Knicks. But the Suns saw a player who had six operations in eight years, none more worrisome than the left knee surgery he had in October 2005.

Stoudemire had microfracture surgery, a procedure designed to spur cartilage growth, providing a critical buffer between bones. Stoudemire’s existing cartilage had become damaged and the knee had become painful.

Although microfracture has been associated with the rapid decline of star players like Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber, Allan Houston and Tracy McGrady, Stoudemire’s prognosis was excellent. He was 22 at the time, and the damage was minimal and in a non-weight-bearing area.

And now the important new information

Suns officials were not so sure. Doctors advised them that the new cartilage might last for only six or seven years. If it deteriorated, Stoudemire’s valued athleticism could go with it.

“Our best estimate was that we thought Amar’e had two or three really good years left in him,” said Steve Kerr, the former Suns general manager, who now works as an analyst for TNT.

Stoudemire is now five years removed from microfracture surgery. Year 7 would coincide with the 2011-12 season — the second year of his five-year, $100 million contract with the Knicks.

The Suns offered Stoudemire the same terms, but guaranteed only the first three years. For the final two years to become guaranteed, Stoudemire would have had to play 2,200 minutes in the third and fourth seasons (an average of 26.8 minutes over 82 games). “It wasn’t based on performance,” Sarver said. “It was just based on health.”

Dr. Steadman, however, disagrees with that notion

Dr. Richard Steadman, who pioneered the microfracture procedure in the 1980s, said his follow-up studies — with patients who were, on average, 11 years removed from surgery — had shown no decline in function.

“In general, if the procedure’s successful, the tissue remains resilient indefinitely,” he said.

There is no consensus

According to Dr. David Altchek, the co-chief of sports medicine and shoulder service at the Hospital for Special Surgery , the “scar cartilage” created through microfracture surgery differs from normal cartilage. The differences can be seen at the cell level when the tissue is examined under an electron microscope.

“People have observed and hypothesized” that this scar cartilage “does not have the durability of normal cartilage and may in fact break down after five to seven years,” Altchek said.

Worrying information on Amare’s health … I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how he holds up over the duration of that five year contract with the Knicks.

Hopefully, he’ll stay healthy.

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