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NBA Injury Analysis: Preseason Checkup 2

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Al Jefferson
The Bobcats' big offseason acquisition suffered an ankle injury in an Oct. 11 preseason loss to the Heat, and his availability to start the season could be in jeopardy. The center limped off the floor and X-Rays taken after the game were negative. The team diagnosed the injury as a right ankle sprain and has all but ruled out Jefferson for the remainder of the preseason. Jefferson's ankle was considerably swollen following the injury and the medical staff will spend the next two weeks attempting to reduce and move the swelling out of the injured ankle. While Jefferson is colorfully downplaying the injury, it will be well worth monitoring moving forward. A quick look through Jefferson's injury past suggests this could be an issue that will linger.

Jefferson endured multiple right ankle sprains early in his career and would eventually require a debridement procedure to remove bone chips in the summer of 2006. Signs of lingering issues developed in the 2011-12 season when Jefferson would sit for three games with ankle tendinitis. Recent studies have begun to reveal that a relationship between reoccurring ankle sprains and future tendinitis exists. The stability of the ankle is compromised following a sprain. As a result the peroneal muscles compensate to help maintain the integrity of the joint. As these muscles become overworked tendinitis can easily develop. With Jefferson reinjuring the ligaments, the peroneals will be more susceptible to chronic inflammation.

The concern doesn't stop there as the sprain could have a cascade effect on his right leg. Jefferson has previously sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. Ensuring there is no indirect effect on the knee and other joints of the right lower extremity should be an additional focal point of his rehabilitation. All signs point to Jefferson playing on opening night, but only time will tell if he's completely moved past the injury.

Russell Westbrook
The Thunder will be without Westbrook's services for at least four-to-six weeks to start the season. The All-Star guard suffered a tear to his right lateral meniscus during last season's playoffs and would miss the team's final nine games after undergoing surgery. The surgery reportedly went well and Westbrook appeared ready to return for the start of camp. However reoccurring swelling within the joint raised some concerns and the OKC medical staff opted to send Westbrook for a MRI. The images revealed a loose suture from the original surgery that would be best treated with another trip to the operating room.

The details reveal multiple things regarding Westbrook's injury. For starters we now know that the original tear was not big and doctors were able to perform a meniscal repair in an attempt to save the remaining cartilage. Cartilage repairs are accompanied by a longer initial recovery but have better long-term results. Maintaining the integrity of the disc prevents bone-on-bone contact and helps prevent chronic problems like arthritis. However the stitches used to fix the damage did not heal properly and were likely removed in Westbrook's second scope. The recovery time for this second surgery will be quicker but does increase his inherent injury risk moving forward. The injury doesn't mean Westbrook will be unable to play at a high level again but it does make it important that he follows the instructions of head athletic trainer Joe Sharpe and his medical team. Regular maintenance and treatment should become a part of Westbrook's routine to ensure he's able to extend his career. In the meantime, fantasy owners should anticipate Westbrook dropping to the second, or even third round, in some drafts, and should make subsequent picks to bolster their depth at guard should any setbacks occur.

Trey Burke
The Utah rookie suffered a broken right index finger and will miss the next eight-to-12 weeks after a specialist felt surgery was required. Surgical pins will be used to align the broken pieces of the bone to insure proper union. Guard Kyrie Irving suffered a similar injury last season but was back after three weeks. However, Irving's fracture did not require surgery and was to his non-shooting hand, which allowed him to return ahead of schedule. Burke's injury is to his shooting hand and could require extra recovery time, plus an adjustment period as he may have to get used to wearing a splint or protective padding. Unless you are in a deep keeper league it would be best to let Burke go undrafted and be mindful of the waiver wire when he nears his return.

Fast Breaks

Nicolas Batum: The Trailblazers swingman hopes to return to full practice later in the week. Batum has been dealing with a concussion sustained during practice last week. He must complete the NBA concussion protocol and receive league clearance before taking the court.

Brendan Haywood: Jefferson isn't the only member of the Charlotte frontcourt nursing an injury. Haywood is expected to miss at least three months while recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in the navicular bone of his foot. This type of injury essentially ended the career of Houston's Yao Ming, so a complete union of the bone will be crucial for Haywood's long-term outcome.

Derrick Rose: The uneasiness felt by Bulls fans following Rose's game off due to soreness in his surgically-repaired knee is understandable. However complete panic is unwarranted. Rose had not played at the highest level of competition in over 500 days. A bit of soreness is to be expected. The Bulls have been patient with their MVP up to this point, so why overdo it in the preseason? Keep Rose near the top of your draft boards unless more concrete evidence of a setback arises.

Brandan Wright: Wright will be sidelined for an indefinite amount of time after suffering a non-displaced fracture in his shoulder. There were concerns regarding the location of the break as Wright previously needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in the same shoulder. The recovery from the previous injury cost him the entire 2009-10 season. However a MRI revealed the fracture did not compromise the labral repair, and Wright should be able to avoid an additional surgery. He will immobilize the joint and be reevaluated on a week-to-week basis. Wright will be able to maintain his conditioning but seems likely to miss a week or two to start the season.