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NBA Injury Analysis: Westbrook Returns

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.

Goran Dragic

It was a tough opening week for Dragic. In Phoenix's second game of the season he was hit in the face and the resulting swelling disrupted his vision. He was in the lineup the following game but was once again an early departure after suffering a left ankle sprain. Dragic has sprained this ankle multiple times throughout his career but it has never cost him a game. However, the latest injury is being described as a mild to moderate sprain, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him sit out one, if not both, of the games in Phoenix's upcoming back-to-back set starting Tuesday against New Orleans. He will be a risky play in weekly leagues, though it appears he shouldn't miss a significant amount of time.

Russell Westbrook

The Thunder guard was back on the court Sunday after missing just two games recovering from his second surgery on his right knee. He suffered the initial injury during the playoffs last season, tearing his lateral meniscus. The team opted for a meniscus repair rather than removal, hoping to minimize the long-term effects. Unfortunately, the plan slightly backfired as a suture from the repair caused swelling and a second surgery was ultimately needed. However, the OKC medical staff handled the situation perfectly, progressing the All-Star at a controlled pace. Compliance from Westbrook helped the cause, and as a result, he returned several weeks ahead of schedule. The quick recovery should come as no surprise given both the player and the involved personnel. Westbrook has been a healthy player throughout his career, avoiding any serious injury until now. These games were the first two regular season games he has missed in his entire six years in the league. Helping him throughout the process was an elite level medical staff that led the NBA in fewest games missed due to injury for the 2012-13 season. Steered by head athletic trainer Joe Sharpe, the team lost 26 total games to injury and has finished below the league average for games missed due to injury in three consecutive seasons. Get Westbrook back in your lineup and know that he and the rest of the Thunder are in good hands.

Al Jefferson

The Bobcats' big offseason acquisition has played just one game after aggravating a previously sprained right ankle. Jefferson was slated to have the injury re-evaluated over the weekend, and the findings could determine his availability for the upcoming week. He has a history of ankle tendinitis in the joint and it will be interesting to see if these injuries become a lingering issue. Furthermore, the major injuries he's endured throughout his career, including his torn ACL, have all occurred to the right leg and could make him vulnerable to other injuries. Downgrade Jefferson for the immediate future and keep a close eye on any findings discovered in his trip to the doctor.

Ronny Turiaf

The Timberwolves will be without Turiaf for an extended period of time after he suffered a fractured elbow. The specific part of the elbow broken was the radial head, a rounded end of the lower arm bone known as the radius. This smooth shape allows for movement at the elbow including flexion and extension as well as supination and pronation (turning the hand over) of the forearm. Broken radial heads generally occur with an elbow dislocation though it has not been reported that is the case with Turiaf. The healing process for a non-displaced radial head is straight forward as the bone must mend before basketball-related activity can be resumed. Turiaf will be placed in a sling and should be out at least two weeks.

Fast Breaks

Ryan Anderson: The Pelicans expect to be without Anderson for at least a week after an X-ray revealed a small chip fracture in his second toe. Fortunately the chipped piece of bone did not displace and surgery will not be needed. Avoiding the operating room should allow him to return quicker than normal. Anderson has said a return to the court will primarily be dictated by pain-tolerance, and I'm betting he returns before the estimated three weeks.

Patrick Beverley: The Rockets point guard will miss at least one week recovering from a partial tear to an abdominal muscle. A Grade 2 abdominal strain should be handled carefully to insure it does not develop into something more severe. The location of the injury doesn't lend itself to things like a hernia, but an imbalanced core could cause injuries in the lower back and other abdominal muscles. As a result of Beverley's absence, Jeremy Lin has returned to the starting lineup. Lin has played well so far, averaging 17 points in two starts.

Tim Duncan: Duncan missed one game with a chest contusion but looked fine Saturday, scoring 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a loss to Portland. The veteran forward will continue to receive the occasional day off to rest, but he should be fine moving forward.

Brandon Jennings: Jennings is back on the court but may not be himself for a few games. The speedy guard lost at least six pounds as result of having his fractured jaw immobilized. He will also need time to adjust to wearing a protective face mask that he admitted is uncomfortable. Utilize Jennings like normal but understand his often erratic shooting may be particularly poor until he gets back in shape and grows used to the mask.

Nene: The Washington forward has missed two consecutive games with a left calf strain. There's serious cause for concern here as chronic foot and heel problems in his left leg have severely limited him over the past two seasons. Expect Nene to miss several more games, and don't be surprised if this lingers.

John Wall: Wall was bothered by back spasms over the weekend but managed to remain in the lineup. Spasms are the result of an underlying injury, so determining what is causing the problem will be key to his long-term status. Keep him in your lineup for the time being and hope this is a non-issue.