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Covering sports injuries from the perspective of a certified athletic trainer and backed by analytics.

Breaking Down the Brook Lopez Injury

The Nets disastrous season took a turn for the worse on Friday when starting center Brook Lopez reinjured his troublesome right foot.

Lopez’ problems began prior to the lockout shortened season of 2011-12 when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. Lopez underwent surgery two days before Christmas and would miss the first 32 games of the year. He would undergo a second surgery following the conclusion of the season but managed to stay relatively healthy during the 2012-13 campaign. This past summer was slowed by another trip to the operating room after the surgical hardware inserted into the initial injury site failed and bent. The screw was replaced and Lopez entered the season ready to contribute to a team many considered a legitimate contender in the East. Sadly he once again broke the fifth metatarsal Friday night during the team’s overtime loss to the Sixers.

The metatarsals are the long bones within the foot that connect the bones of the midfoot to the bones of the toe. The fifth metatarsal is located on the outside of the foot and serves as an attachment site for several muscles. These muscles make the bone susceptible to fractures when the ankle is forced inward in a direction known as inversion.

For metatarsal fracture, recovery and treatment depends largely on the location of the break. Fractures to the mid- shaft of the bone are the least serious. Avulsion fractures are also possible and occur when one of the attaching muscles pulls away a piece of the bone. Surgery for these kinds of fractures can be avoided if the broken pieces do not displace.

The most serious of the fractures is the Jones fracture, which occurs when the break is located near the base of the bone. The area is poorly vascularized, meaning the available blood supply is low, and it requires a prolonged period of time to completely heal.  Individuals who suffer Jones fractures can experience a delayed union or nonunion of the bone, meaning the two bone pieces require a longer period of time to connect or in some cases do not unite at all. As a result surgery is often required to insure alignment occurs.

Unfortunately surgery does not come with a guarantee. Hardware failure is a common occurrence and, even if surgery is considered a success, the inherent risk of future breaks remains high. Orlando’s Glen Davis and former Nets player Damion James are just two examples of players who need screw replacements after their initial surgery. Furthermore, Portland rookie CJ McCollum has yet to make his professional debut after he broke his fifth metatarsal in training camp. McCollum missed a majority of his final year in college after suffering a similar injury that required the insertion of a screw. The list goes on and on, including Roddy Beaubois, Ricky Davis, and now apparently Lopez.

Lopez will be further evaluated in the coming days and surgery seems likely. Brooklyn is already anticipating he will be lost for the season and it is safe to say the young center’s career is at a defining moment. Hopefully the timing of the injury will allow Lopez to return next season but concerns surrounding his foot will remain.

Video Breakdown of 5th Metatarsal Injuries from 2011

One thought on “Breaking Down the Brook Lopez Injury”
  1. […] word is that he’s only “likely” to miss the rest of the season. He will be further evaluated in the upcoming days, and surgery will be likely. We may not know his actual timetable until the end of next week, but I […]

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