The NBA play-offs are like a battle of attrition. It’s almost like watching the NFL. Teams plagued by injuries are falling off one by one.
Kyrie Irving is struggling with a mid-foot sprain, while LeBron is battling an ankle sprain. Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls is combatting knee issues and now just in the last game, we saw him holding his arm like he had a stinger or burner.
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about these injuries and battle on the court. Coaches are giving their sports medicine teams a lot of credit. They’re working around the clock to get these players back in the game.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
HORNER: 1590 WAKR News Talk Sports. Eight minutes in front of 9 o’clock, 8:52 a.m. Right now, I’m gonna bring in Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Joe, lot of NBA injuries, my friend.
DR. CONGENI: Wow, this is like watching the NFL, you know?. I mean, we talk about it being a battle of attrition. … It’s kinda sad because, you know, a lot of teams just fall off with injuries and, uh, it’s a battle of attrition. The play-offs are turning out to be that way in the NBA this year.
A lot of people are asking me, you know, “What do you think it is?”
It’s just such physical play, Ray. I think that’s part of it as you see players go down all around the league, but um …
HORNER: Specifically with Kyrie.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, yeah specifically with Kyrie. I mean, I had really big worries. He seemed to be on a downhill trajectory in those last four games. …
And, one of the things that’s really important to know in sports medicine, you see a lot of ankle injuries, [but] guys bounce back pretty quick, like LeBron. Ankle sprains generally, you know, ligament injuries in the ankle, they respond pretty well. Rarely do they need surgery. They respond to rehab and, uh, you can support them and tape them and so forth.
Mid-foot sprains in the middle of the foot [are] not quite the same. There are ligaments in the foot and when there’s a significant tear in these ligaments, [they take longer to heal].
There’s one injury called a Lisfranc injury that, you know, you may have heard about. Actually, in that book we talked about last week, “Hot Rod” Williams of the Cavs is one that comes to mind in the past days of Cleveland lore. [He had this] lisfranc injury, and sometimes they just don’t get better with time and end up needing surgery, and people go down hill.
But then last night, inexplicitly Kyrie moved better, he, uh, played great. He gritted it out. How much is just how tough these guys are and mentally tough playing through these things?
On the other side, he’s going up against a guy, you know, Derrick Rose, who’s had his problems with knee issues and lower extremity problems. And now, he’s, uh, holding his arm the whole second half as if he has a recurrence of a, you know, stinger or burner.
… Remember at the end of the game, a couple games ago I think it was, Ray, he was acting like that arm was kinda dead arm and holding the arm at his, uh, side? But now, [he’s] having those again in this game.
This may be something that reoccurs and comes back through the rest of the series. So literally, you know, athletes are going down and this NBA is going to become a battle of attrition.
HORNER: Resilience for LeBron. Looked like he had a bad ankle sprain. I guess he had his foot in a machine all night and he looked great.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah. They really are testing [new techniques]. And, by the way, all the coaches are giving a lot of credit to their sports medicine teams and their trainers who are working, you know, all night long.
… Even with Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers) with that hamstring. He said immediately after the game, the training people literally live at his place, they start dong treatments 24 hours around the clock to try and get [him] back ready to play.
And uh, a lot of it’s a mystery. Another real mystery is John Wall’s (Washington Wizards) wrist. They say [he has] 5 fractures in his wrist and hand bone.
And so, a lot of it is what can you play through and what can you not play through. And right now, Kyrie Irving with a mid-foot sprain, which is a bad injury, seems to be moving back in the right direction.
HORNER: And we’ll take that. Joe, thanks for the visit, always appreciate the time.
DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Have a great week.