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Amar’e Stoudemire regrets microfracture surgery, had it only because he didn’t know what it was

Mar 21, 2014, 2:10 PM EST

Amare Stoudemire, Marvin Williams

Amar’e Stoudemire had microfracture surgery before the 2005-06 season, and he played just three games late that year.

But he returned to make five more All-Star games, an All-NBA first team and three All-NBA second teams.

It sure doesn’t seem as if that surgery hindered Stoudemire’s career. It seems as if it saved it.

A spate of other injuries, not just the 2005 knee problem, have set him back in the years since.

That’s why I was surprised to see Stoudemire say he regretted the microfracture surgery.

Stoudemire, via Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report:

My intense training focus first started after my microfracture surgery in 2005. That was the hardest recovery I’ve ever been through in my life. I actually didn’t know what a microfracture was. If I had known what a microfracture was, I would have never gotten that procedure. Going into surgery, it actually wasn’t guaranteed that I was going to have a microfracture.

The doctors said, “There’s an option between a scope or a microfracture depending on how big the injury is.” So I said, “OK.” They said, “We’re going to go in and see, and if it’s a microfracture we’re just going to have the procedure.” So I wake up and there’s a microfracture, so I’m like, “Holy smokes. How long am I out for?” They said, “Six to 12 months.” I couldn’t walk for like two months after the procedure. No weight bearing and I had a machine that flexed my knee for me. I was like, “Man, this is crazy.”

When I went through the recovery, one day I feel great and the next day I’m in excruciating pain. It was just back and forth. I’m hearing, “Stoudemire will never be the same. He will not recover from this injury.” They’re naming Jamal Mashburn, Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber—all these great players who had this procedure and never returned. And I have a day where I feel like, “Oh, I’m back,” and then I feel like, “Oh, can I ever get back?” So I had to work and train and work and train, and I developed a habit of training.

It seems Stoudemire was in a bad position as soon as his knee reached the level of damage it had. What were his alternatives to microfracture surgery?

I reached out to Ben Wedro of MD direct, and with the caveat he doesn’t know Stoudemire and hasn’t reviewed his medical records, Wedro provided context about microfracture surgery and answered my question:

There are two types of cartilage, hyaline and articular. Articular lines joints and is thicker and stronger than the other. Unfortunately, articular cartilage has poor blood supply and does not heal well when damaged.

In microfracture surgery, small holes are drilled through the bone beneath the damaged area. This allows blood to well into the area and clot. It begins to heal and form hyaline cartilage, not as strong as articular, but adequate to return an athlete to play for awhile.

The rehab is 6-12 months because it takes time for the new cartilage to form and stabilize. Forcing the femur onto the healing  area with walking would prevent the purpose of the surgery.

There are some alternatives to microfracture surgery now available and likely could have been used in 2005, including cartilage cell injection. It requires both an arthroscopy of the knee to assess the damage and harvest cartilage cells plus an open operation to cut into the knee to perform the transplant. (The cartilage cells are reproduced in the lab to make millions to form a patch.) The rehab time is the same as microfracture.

The bottom line is that the initial injury is what altered his career. The operative repair allowed him to maximize potential after injury.

Stoudemire has had an excellent – and, at this point, underrated – career. It sure seems the microfracture surgery helped him continue it as well as possible.

An intriguing what if: How good would Stoudemire have been if not for his injuries?

But that’s a different question than: How good would Stoudemire have been if nor his microfracture surgery? It seems the answer is: about the same.

  1. fm31970 - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Nice bit of writing (and research) in this article, and I learned some new things. Well done.

  2. sellahh - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    This guy’s a warrior and if everyone on his team had his heart, they’d be the 3rd seed and making Indy at least a bit nervous.

  3. farminfool - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    Only part of the article I disagree with is when you say he has an underrated career. He isn’t getting paid like he is underrated.

    • genericcommenter - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      It’s like he’s so overrated that he’s underrated.

  4. supremekingz - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    Good read. Didn’t know a lot of this stuff. I really like Amare’s game. I definitely think he should be getting more minutes but I don’t know his current health situation. I just always wished he would get more rebounds. I figure just being a power forward should get you 5 rebounds a game from freethrows alone. He has so much hops, but he’s never ever been a rebounder.

  5. zerole00 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    I enjoyed the lesson in physiology, this stuff is way better than “he said he said” articles.

  6. nflcrimerankingscom - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    One of the best articles I’ve seen on this site.

  7. reesesteel23 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    Without a PG or someone to distribute the ball, specifically on pick and rolls, this man is useless. Bad knees or not.

    • paleihe - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      He played amazing basketball, offense and defense, his first year in NY prior to Melo coming over. He didn’t have a PG. The man can ball.

      “Useless” is hyperbole at best, and ignorance at worst.

  8. sportsfan18 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Stat didn’t KNOW there was going to be a microfracture surgery..

    But he KNEW there COULD be one if the doc thought it was needed and Stat said “OK”.

    Based on this, even the Doc did not KNOW ahead of time whether a microfracture surgery would be done either Stat.

    Stat, you KNEW exactly what WAS going to happen if the doc thought it was needed… and what would happen if the doc didn’t think it was needed…

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Mar 22, 2014 at 7:23 AM

      “They’re naming Jamal Mashburn, Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber—all these great players who had this procedure and never returned.”

      If this really came as news to him after the procedure, and if the difficult rehab really came as news, then, no, he didn’t know what was going to happen if the doc thought it was needed. Maybe he knew the name of the procedure, maybe even what the procedure consisted of, but if he had no idea of the consequences of the procedure (and of not having the procedure), then he didn’t know what he needed to know.

      The best news is that his decision, however well or badly informed it may have been, may have been for the best anyway, if the consulting doctor has it right, but the lesson remains.

  9. kb2408 - Mar 21, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    Before the knee problems, Amare’ was really good. Do we forget what he did to “Timmie” and the Spurs in the playoffs when he was with Phoenix?

  10. jzone954 - Mar 21, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Hope you have a good finish to your career .

  11. anonymous135 - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Great to read and appreciate the trials and tribulations involved with such gruesome recoveries, for someone who has become a bit of an after thought.. all the hard work they go through and though not the A++++ superstar he was prior, he has been serviceable with his litany of all-star appearances, etc. His work ethic carries through.

    Also going for him was that he was so young in his career when he underwent the surgery.

  12. ProBasketballPundit - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:23 PM

    Not knowing what something is is a GREAT reason to do something….

    • jimeejohnson - Mar 23, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Yeah, right.

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