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NBA Injury Analysis: Bruised Bears

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.

Steve Blake

The Lakers lost another member of their backcourt last week as Blake joins Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar on the sidelines. Blake suffered an injury not commonly seen in basketball when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow during a recent practice. The UCL provides support to the medial (inside) portion of the elbow. When torn, it often requires the dreaded Tommy John surgery that has become commonplace in Major League Baseball. Numerous pitchers, including Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, Matt Harvey and Brian Wilson, have required the surgery and missed substantial amount of time recovering. However, since basketball does not require a repetitive overhead throwing motion, the injury and surgery are rarities in the NBA. In looking through the countless injuries sustained over the last five NBA seasons I was only able to find four injuries diagnosed as UCL sprains, and all four players avoided surgery. Blake is expected to avoid going under the knife and will miss at least six weeks recovering. With Nash and Farmar still out, Kobe Bryant has taken on the role as key facilitator. The new responsibilities could actually work in Bryant's favor as he works his way back from Achilles surgery and familiarizes himself with his new teammates.

Mike Conley

With Quincy Pondexter lost for the season and Marc Gasol still nursing a sprained MCL, the Grizzlies can ill afford another injury. Unfortunately, Conley limped off the court in the team's loss to the Timberwolves with a left thigh contusion. While the injury doesn't sound particularly serious, damage to the quadriceps muscle group can be painful and limiting, particularly for a guard dependent on his speed. Furthermore, thigh contusions can develop into a more serious condition known as myositis ossificans. If improperly treated or not given the appropriate amount of time to heal, tiny calcified formations similar to bone may develop in the damaged tissue of the muscle. Consider Conley day-to-day, but don't be surprised if he misses a game or two.

Glen Davis

After missing the first 11 games of the season recovering from a fractured left foot, Davis irritated another old injury over the weekend in a loss to the Thunder. Davis collided with the hoop's stanchion dislocating his left shoulder. The shoulder was reduced, meaning it was physically returned to its original position, and Davis was permitted to return to the game. However, Davis' injury serves as a good example to explain the subtle differences between a subluxation and a dislocation. A subluxation, often referred to as a partial dislocation, occurs when the joint alignment is temporarily disrupted but the neighboring muscles and ligaments are able to reduce or return the joint back to its original position automatically. A dislocation occurs when the joint alignment is so severely disrupted that outside help is often required to put it back into place. A true dislocation is often accompanied with muscle, ligament, and other soft tissue damage. As long as these structures remain injured, the integrity of the joint will remain compromised and the individual is vulnerable to additional dislocations or chronic subluxations. Restoring the stability of the joint is vital to recovery and long-term health. This can be accomplished by strengthening the surrounding musculature and using various modalities to help with ligament repair. Davis' injury is a bit concerning considering he has previously dislocated this shoulder. In December of last season, Davis dislocated and sprained his shoulder and missed the team's next 11 games. Davis has vowed the injury is a minor inconvenience and wouldn't keep him off the court. However, if he re-injures the shoulder, he could be staring at an extended time on the sidelines. Keep him in the lineup if he plays, but understand he's playing with an elevated level of risk.

Fast Breaks

Bradley Beal: Beal participated in Monday's shootaround and could return to the court against the Knicks. The second-year standout has missed Washington's last nine games recovering from a stress reaction in his left fibula. Time will tell if he is able to move past this injury and if the Washington medical staff was able to determine any factors that may have led to Beal's second fibula stress injury in two seasons.

Danny Granger: The Pacers hope to welcome Granger back Friday after an extended time off recovering from a strained left calf. Granger has played just six regular season games over the past two seasons and may struggle to find his role in the established Indiana offense. He's worth a speculative add, but keep in mind he's not going to immediately produce All-Star caliber numbers and he may not ever return to his previous level of play.

James Harden: Harden sprained his left ankle Sunday, leaving his status for Wednesday undecided. Harden's left foot has been an issue since he suffered a contusion early in the season forcing him to miss a total of four games with lingering pain and soreness. Harden appeared to be in a considerable amount of pain following Sunday's injury and attempted the subsequent free-throws on one leg. The latest injury should be considered a setback and a one or two games absence should be expected. If Harden can't go, look for Patrick Beverly, Chandler Parsons, and even Francisco Garcia to shoulder more of the offensive load from the perimeter.

Dirk Nowitzki: The former Finals MVP missed a game over the weekend due to a nasty illness that also sidelined Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. The Mavs catch a break in the schedule and do not play until Wednesday, giving Nowitzki three days to recover. Nowitzki has battled sinus infections throughout his career but has never missed more than a game due to illness. Expect him back in uniform against Memphis.

Rajon Rondo: The doctors have cleared the Boston point guard for full contact but he isn't expected to make his 2013-14 debut until January. The reason to wait is sound as additional time at practice should allow Rondo to shake off any lingering rust and mentally and physically adjust to playing basketball again. Rondo is expected to return 11 months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.