Kevin Durant's original injury involved Achilles, sports doctor speculates

When Kevin Durant hurt his leg May 8 in the Warriors’ playoff series against the Rockets, many feared it was an Achilles injury.

Although Golden State quickly announced Durant had suffered a calf strain, some observers wondered if that initial hunch was correct. Count Dr. David Chao among those skeptics. A board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Chao spent almost two decades as an NFL head team physician for the Chargers. Today he’s best known for his instant analysis on sports injuries for outlets ranging from the NFL Network to SiriusXM Sports.

After seeing Durant suffer another leg injury Monday night in Game 5 against the Raptors, Dr. Chao is convinced his initial theory is correct.

Durant, who had not played in 32 days since suffering the initial injury, went down in the second quarter Monday and had to be helped off the court. He left the arena on crutches, and the Warriors reportedly fear he suffered a torn Achilles.

Dr. Chao said he made his initial diagnosis last month of an Achilles injury after reviewing video and seeing Durant ice his leg down near the Achilles. After reviewing video of Monday’s incident, he said it appears Durant’s calf muscle was so strong it overpowered his Achilles, which he says can be seen rippling in his lower leg in this replay.

The violent muscle contraction and “ripple” is evidence the muscle overpowered the tendon,” Dr. Chao wrote Tuesday in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It is like in a game of tug-of-war — if the rope breaks or the other side let’s go, the “winning side” falls down backwards in a heap. In this way, Durant had to have a strong calf muscle to tear his Achilles, which speaks against a calf muscle strain.

“The theory here (not fact) is that Durant had some partial injury to his Achilles that the Warriors knew about and treated appropriately with over a month’s rest and made a calculated risk/reward decision that didn’t work out.”

Dr. Chao studiously points out he is “in no way being critical of the Warriors or their medical staff.”

It’s all a matter of semantics.

“’Calf’” is not technically wrong, as they did not say calf muscle and the Achilles can be considered part of the calf/lower leg area,” Dr. Chao wrote. “The team doctors do not give the verbiage to reporters; the team makes that call. 

“Again, to be clear, I am not saying the doctors misdiagnosed a potential Achilles as a calf. The likelihood is they knew exactly what was going on but that doesn’t get translated to the public.”

There would be obvious reasons for the Warriors to avoid using the term “Achilles” for the initial injury. With Durant possibly headed off into free agency this summer, an Achilles injury sounds more ominous than a calf strain.

Durant was scheduled to have an MRI Tuesday to reveal the full more about his condition.

The Warriors rallied from a six-point deficit late in Game 5 to cut the Raptors’ NBA Finals lead to 3-2. The Warriors host Game 6 Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.