I’m eager to watch tonight’s Cavs game against the Portland Trail Blazers. They’re expected to go far in the play-offs, but their center, LaMarcus Aldridge — probably one of the top 10 players in the league — is suffering from a torn ligament in his thumb.
He was scheduled to have surgery on it, but recently decided against it. Although holding off surgery won’t threaten his career, it could threaten his team’s play-off performance.
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about whether he should have surgery now or wait to see if it gets worse.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Jan. 28, 2015.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, Ray. I wanted to talk about a couple basketball players that were hanging around Cleveland the last few days, the Portland Trail Blazers. They’re playing tonight.
DR. CONGENI: They have a center. He’s one of the best in the league. He’s fantastic — probably [one of the] top 10 players in the league. [He’s] trying to make a decision on whether to have surgery or not on his thumb. I was gonna talk a little bit about [how] we face those things …
HORNER: LaMarcus Aldridge?
DR. CONGENI: LaMarcus Aldridge. So, I looked at my schedule today and I have a couple people on my schedule that’ll be similar, where we have to talk about do you do a surgery? Do you not? What are the pros and cons?
As of a week ago … they put a cast on his thumb. He had torn ligaments, according to reports, of course. I didn’t see him. I don’t know the details of how bad the tear was, but bad enough they put him in a cast.
As of a week ago, he was gonna have an operation, and [they] thought that he could be ready in 6 to 8 weeks after the operation. And, um, then he changed his mind.
I read a report, he was shooting around, he felt okay. He played some one-on-one, he felt okay. He practiced a day. He played a game. He scored 26 points in the last game before they went on their East Coast trip. He’ll be in Cleveland tonight, so you’ll get to see him firsthand.
[There are] 2 issues really about this, Ray, particularly with this player:
No. 1: Does he put his future career at risk if he keeps playing with this and makes it worse?
The answer to that one, generally with this thumb sprain — it’s a big ligament that holds the thumb stable at the base of the thumb, down at the bottom of the thumb — that’s not the case.
So then again, if he tears it worse or stretches it out further, when they fix it, he’ll do well for his career. So, I don’t think that’s as big an issue.
The second issue always with the kids in sports and athletes in sports, [like] LaMarcus Aldridge, is timing. The deal is if he plays a few weeks and it stretches out and it gets worse, uh, if he misses a window of time here in the next few weeks, [he could mess up the play-offs]. They’re really expecting to go pretty far in the play-offs. They’re a team in the West that’s supposed to, you know, really make some headway this year.
The only one reminder that we have in Cleveland sports was about this time in 2010, a few years ago, we had a big center that came into town by the name of Shaquille O’Neal and he had a torn ligament in his thumb.
He got it fixed, but it was a little later in the season and when he came back, he was out of shape and out of sorts and didn’t fit in with the team. So, the period of time is gonna be interesting. And, if this worsens over time and he waits too long, he may mess up the beginning of the play-offs for Portland.
So, it will be interesting to see tonight. It’s a torn ligament in his thumb. His is a little different than the classic one at the base of the thumb. This is called a radial collateral ligament, from what I read. But, uh, it will be interesting to see how he handles the ball and how he does with this injury tonight in Cleveland.
HORNER: Alright, good stuff, Joe. Great insight on the world of sports health again, my friend. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Thanks, Ray. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.