Milwaukee Bucks: The need for patience with Jabari Parker

Milwaukee, WI - JANUARY 16: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Milwaukee, WI - JANUARY 16: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

While everyone knows that two torn ACLs is a bad thing, what exactly will Jabari Parker‘s rehabilitation consist of as he looks to return to action with the Milwaukee Bucks?

Jabari Parker has put Milwaukee Bucks fans through an emotional rollercoaster since being drafted with the second overall pick back in 2014.

In his first month of basketball with Milwaukee, Parker won the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Then on December 15, 2015 against the Phoenix Suns, Parker suffered his first ACL tear in his left leg.

This sent shockwaves through Bucks fandom, as a potential saviour and future superstar was gone for the season, and who knew how he would look upon his return.

Fast forward a year-and-a-half and Parker had returned to the Bucks in the 2015-16 season with a renewed sense of confidence. Entering the 2016-17 season, Bucks fans had high hopes of how Parker would mesh with Giannis Antetokounmpo heading into his third season in the NBA.

At first, Parker didn’t disappoint, averaging over 20 points and six rebounds per game while showing off his new-found three-point shot, as he made 36.5 percent of his attempts from deep.

Then came the hammer blow, as on February 9, 2017 Parker went down on his left leg again and was ruled out for the season with his second torn ACL. Bucks and NBA fans around the world sank in despair as this high-flying kid with endless offensive potential was let down yet again by his body.

It’s now been six months since that moment and it’s fair to say Bucks fans are split down the middle for what to expect from Parker.

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One half will argue that he’s done it once before, he can do it again. Others will point to past NBA players like Brandon Roy and Derrick Rose as to evidence against returning post multiple serious knee injuries.

While both arguments are valid, it’s important to remember that injuries and post-operative rehabilitations should be taken as an individual case-by-case basis and no one injury will ever be the same to another.

In Roy and Rose’s case, they had meniscal damage and degeneration in their knees. This differentiates Parker in this instance as there have been no reports of meniscal damage or joint degeneration. In Parker’s case, it is just the ACL that has been damaged.

The ACL is a ligament found inside the knee joint and is responsible for stabilising and holding the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone). Its main function in athletes is to hold the joint steady during sudden movements or quick changes in direction. That same function is one of the main reasons why basketball players injure it so often.

When a player performs any quick or sudden movement, it’s the ACL that is called into play to hold the knee steady. At any one time, if the movement is too great and the load on the joint overloads the stability of the ligament, it gives way and is torn.

During the actual surgery to repair it, dependent on where in the world you are having it performed, a graft from elsewhere in the body is harvested. In America, it is generally the patellar (knee cap) Tendon which is harvested and used as a surrogate ligament, to be screwed into the joint. From there, the patient is left with a recovering ligament, a lesion in their patellar tendon and severely weak muscles surrounding the joint.

Often ACL repairs are misunderstood to be a one year full recovery. While yes it is true, most athletes return to sport after one year, often they do not return to full performance/confidence levels until two years post-surgery.

As far as what to expect during the rehabilitation process, it varies from patient to patient. But if you ask any respected practitioner, they will tell you there are five factors to consider.

They include:

  1. The quality of the surgery performed
  2. The condition of the joint prior
  3. The age of the patient
  4. The quality and quantity of rehabilitation
  5. Plain old luck

So to consider Parker’s likelihood of returning to basketball at anything close to resmbling his best, these five factors need to be considered.


Firstly, the surgery was performed by Dr Robert LaPrade. Dr LaPrade is widely considered to be one of the best knee surgeons in the world. In 2013, Dr LaPrade was awarded the OREF Clinic Research Award for his research on knee injuries and has published many studies and articles on the matter. He is at the cutting edge of current procedures for knee surgery and if anyone can get Parker’s knee across the line, it’s Dr LaPrade.


Look away Bucks fans, this is possibly the biggest road block to Parker’s recovery. With each reconstruction, a graft must be taken (which does not grow back) and the work that is performed leaves the knee with resulting scar tissue. The more grafts taken from a patient and work done to a joint, the less likely a positive outcome is to result.


In 2013, a report on ACL rehabilitation for Alpine Skiing Athletes was produced showing the likelihood of return to pre-injury performance. The report concluded that regardless of the prior condition of the knee, the age of the patient was the single greatest determinant for recovery. This certainly works in Parker’s case as even though this is his second reconstruction, age is still on his side which according to this report is the biggest determinant factor. 


Suki Hobson leads the unit for Parker’s rehabilitation at this time. Hobson has years of experience in Australian Rules Football strength and conditioning and has seen many ACL reconstructions in her time. As far as schedules are concerned, current evidence shows a 50 percent reduction in re-injury rates for ACL reconstructions for every month that return to sport is delayed within the first nine months.

The importance of this for Parker, Bucks administration and the fans is to stay patient with this whole process. The longer Parker waits to return, the more likely he is to return to his elite level of play and the less likely he is to injure his knee again. As far as someone who can keep him on a tight schedule for this return, there is certainly no one more qualified at this stage than Suki Hobson.


Lastly, like many fans of Milwaukee Basketball, you’re probably well versed in the saying “Bucks fans can’t have nice things”. So draw your own conclusions with how luck will play into this scenario.

While it’s certainly going to be a difficult road back for Parker, it’s important to remember that patience from both management and fans will be key. Rushing Parker back into the starting lineup and expecting All-Star level of play straight away would be foolish and unfair.

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The evidence is there, Parker can return at an elite level. This will only transpire however if he and his rehabilitation team are patient with their goals and milestones. Likewise, fans will need to remain patient as the Bucks have a superstar in Jabari Parker. They just need to let him return when he’s ready.