It’s an exciting time in Cleveland sports right now: It’s play-off time for the Cavaliers and everybody’s tuning in to see if this is our year.
Unfortunately, we just heard Iman Shumpert took the last week of the regular season off to get his knee drained. Most likely, this stems from an injury he suffered in 2012 when he tore his left ACL and lateral meniscus while playing for the Knicks.
This type of injury is prone to re-tearing and when I hear there’s enough fluid to drain in the knee, it usually is a sign of structural damage. If it were earlier in the season, I think he’d undergo surgery, but because it’s the play-offs he’ll try to play through it.
This week, I spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about Shumpert’s injury. For younger athletes, no matter what time of year, we’d recommend surgery right away because trying to play through it can lead to arthritis and other problems down the road.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, Ray. How ya doin’?
HORNER: I’m doing well. … What do you have for us this week?
DR. CONGENI: Well, you know what, in Cleveland, Ohio, it’s play-off time … . All of us are tuning in to see if the Cavs can make a run and … break that gorilla-like, uh, curse in Cleveland sports. Everybody’s looking in and everybody wants to know that their Cavaliers are relatively healthy.
This was a little bit of a surprise that, uh, Iman Shumpert had to take the last week off of the season and have his knee drained. And so, I wanted to talk a little bit about what that means to us when we hear that. Of course, I don’t know the specifics in Iman Shumpert’s knee, but I’ll talk to you about that.
Both on the short-term and the long-term, it’s not good news when you hear that the knee needs to be drained.
DR. CONGENI: So, um, in the short-run, in a situation like this, the play-offs are all important. If this were November, December, January, he’d probably undergo some surgery now or whatever. But at this point, many people try to play through the play-offs, but there are some ups and downs with that.
People may not remember that Iman Shumpert in 2012, when he was still with the Knicks, tore his left ACL and lateral meniscus. The lateral meniscus is the cartilage pad on the outside of the knee, and it’s, uh, not a good one to tear. It has recurrent tears fairly frequently. Uh, obviously they trim out the part that is torn and try to leave the part that’s still good in the knee.
But, people and athletes are really prone to re-tearing it and they’re prone to arthritis later. And, if there’s enough fluid in the joint where they’re [talking] about draining it — we do face this in sports medicine quite a bit — it’s usually because the athlete really can’t even bend or straighten the knee anymore.
DR. CONGENI: Now, this swelling is not like … “a water-on-the-knee” [problem] that people talk about that is like a bad bruise or a bursa sac that’s swollen. This is in the knee itself and it’s usually indicative that something’s torn; something structural in the knee is going on. Um, usually it’s the cartilage pad that’s torn again. Usually, it means that at the end of the season the person would have to undergo surgery again.
Um, in our younger athletes, we’re a little less likely to say, “Hey, you can go ahead and play for 2 months” because we know if you continue to get it drained and play on it, it’s going to lead to, you know, more problems down the road and really increase your risk of having arthritis and other things.
So, you know that Shumpert has signed for the Cavs for 4 years.
CONGENI: But, this is the kind of injury that does worry me. … I mean Dwyane Wade (of the Miami Heat) has done this and he’s lost some of his explosiveness. Many, many players in the NBA [have done this].
In the bad case, Andrew Bynum (former Cavaliers player) did this one play-off series and the Lakers won the championship that year, but he ended up, you know, having microfracture [surgery] and not playing again. So, it’s not always good news.
I’m not saying that’s what Shumpert needs, but what I’m saying is if there’s enough fluid in there that it needs drained, there probably is something structural. It may be related to that ACL cartilage pad tear that he had before. … Usually people when they get it drained are looking at surgery at the end of the season.
So, it’s not good news. It’ll be a struggle for him through, and hopefully he won’t have re-occurrences of the swelling after having it drained in the next 2 months — hopefully the Cavs have a 2-month run into mid-June.
But, um, that’s something in younger athletes … if it was a re-tear we’d probably go ahead and have the surgery done, but in this situation, uh, with a lot on the line, he’ll try to play through the next month or 2, but it’s not ideal for him.
HORNER: And, Joe, when you look at his particular game, he’s not a guy built on the jump shot. He’s not a guy built on the offensive end. He’s built to get in-your-face defense, so those knees are really important to that type of guy when he’s playing on a defensive end because that’s his game.
DR. CONGENI: You’re right. He is like the Cody Allen of this team. He’s the stopper, right?
DR. CONGENI: So, on the periphery … or outside defense, perimeter defense, he’s the guy for the Cavs and there is a lot of lateral motion and quick movement side-to-side and stop and start, and that’s his game.
But, we’ll see how he does. Many people after this do well for a while, but … it’s not the ideal thing that he had that injury in 2012. Gosh, it’s hard to believe the Knicks were even in the play-offs that short of a time ago.
DR. CONGENI: But uh, he had that injury in 2012 and to have a recurrence at this time is not ideal, but I think we’ll see him out there and I think we’ll all be watching, Ray, just like you said to see how he does move since defense is his main part of the game.
HORNER: Alright, sounds good, Joe. Thank you very much for the insight. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Okay, Ray. Have a great week. Thanks.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, onboard with us this morning.