LeBron is back, baby. Last night, he scored 33 points and had 5 rebounds.
Yet, with ongoing complaints of back and knee issues, many are asking the question: should we be concerned about his health in the long run?
LeBron is definitely suffering from wear and tear, but he’s a different player than he was 4 years ago; he’s a smarter player now. He’s taking away the minutes now to save them for play-off season. With clean MRIs, I don’t think there’s anything ominous to worry about in the future.
Today, I had the chance to visit in studio with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner to discuss this topic.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Jan. 14, 2015.
HORNER: LeBron back last night. You touched on this earlier: 33 points, 5 rebounds. He had complained about some knee and back issues. He has a lot of wear and tear through the years with all the advanced play-offs and all the advanced games and such.
You concerned at all about his health at this stage of his career from a medical standpoint, Joe?
DR. CONGENI: [sigh] A little bit.
HORNER: He keeps himself in great shape.
DR. CONGENI: A little bit. He keeps himself in great shape. And unlike — I’m gonna call it this because you’re all over it and we’re right with ya — the Grady Sizemore syndrome, where people start to unravel because they have one significant injury after another, he [hasn’t] really gone down that path.
DR. CONGENI: Jumper’s knee is something that almost everybody in the NBA has to some extent. You know, back pain, to some extent, but they’re saying, everything you read in the paper, [there’s] nothing structural by way of any of his MRIs and things. So, I think it’s a different issue there.
I think it is a lot of wear and tear there. I think he’s going to have to be a lot smarter in the minutes that he plays and how he plays those minutes, and he’s already making those adjustments.
Um, the problem on the court that you’ll see as Cavs fans is every time you’re out for a while and come back, there’s some adjustment of the team playing together and all those kinds of things.
And the NBA is so geared. They all have their time clocks now. They start when they get closer to, you know, March and April, get more serious and start playing a little bit more.
He said in an interview, I heard, there’s no question he wouldn’t have missed that time with the exact same injury if the calendar said April.
HORNER: I think he has been smart. You know he dropped that weight in the off-season. I think a lot of this has to do with that. I know he’s concerned about the minutes, but if you also watch him on the court, and I know you do, he’s a lot different player now than he was 5 years [ago].
DR. CONGENI: I agree.
HORNER: He is not slashing and dashing as much as he used to.
DR. CONGENI: I agree with you completely. And, can I tell you the names of a few other people you could watch?
Do you know how old (Spurs player) Tim Duncan is, Kevin Garnett (Brooklyn Nets), Paul Pierce (Washington Wizards)? You wonder how are those ancient fossils still going around? They won a championship in Boston when they were in their mid-30s.
Players play a lot smarter. They’re not the highflyers and things like that, but they learn a lot and they play with their head a lot more.
DR. CONGENI: And, the new LeBron that we see back 4 years later, I think he plays with his head differently, exactly as you said. I think he’s going to make those adjustments in April. Is he gonna have enough teammates around him that are going to be able to make those adjustments?
So, I don’t think this is anything ominous. I certainly see that this young man, like those guys that I mentioned, can play to 35, 38, 39, 40. You know those guys I mentioned are still playing, and playing very effectively.
HORNER: Joe, great stuff. Thanks for coming in. We could go on and on.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, I love the rapid-fire, Ray. That’s awesome.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, you know one other thing.
HORNER: Yeah. Go ahead.
DR. CONGENI: This is 2015. The first time I came up and starting coming to WAKR on a regular basis, 20 years ago, 1995.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, so it’s really been fun.
HORNER: So, you were here before I was?
DR. CONGENI: I was here before you were, doing this on a regular basis.
DR. CONGENI: So, I really appreciate it. You know how much I like it. Thanks so much, Ray.
HORNER: Yeah. We love your insight, too.
DR. CONGENI: Thanks.
HORNER: Okay. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center, Akron Children’s Hospital, joining us in studios.