Clippers forward Blake Griffin will miss an extended period of time after suffering a left knee injury in the first quarter of the team’s win over the Lakers on Christmas day. Late Saturday, the team announced a MRI taken on the area revealed a partial quadriceps tendon tear and Griffin would be unavailable for the next two weeks.
Griffin’s injury is a significant setback for the All-Star forward who is currently averaging a team-best 23.2 points per game. To start the quadriceps is a dynamic muscle group that plays a role in multiple joint motions. The four quadriceps muscles, the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius, work in unison to carry out knee extension (straightening of the leg). The rectus femoris also attaches at the hip and aids in hip flexion (bending the hip). As a result extra care must be given during the rehab process to prevent a troublesome muscle imbalance from developing.
Furthermore, Griffin’s past injuries will play a role in his recovery and could delay his return to the court. The patella (kneecap) is a sesamoid bone embedded within the quadriceps tendon. The portion of the tendon above the kneecap is referred to as the quadriceps tendon. The inferior portion that connects the muscle to the tibia is known as the patellar tendon. As the knee is bent or straightened, the patella moves to modify the mechanics of the quadriceps muscle. Correspondingly, the vastus medialis of the quad stabilizes the kneecap throughout this process.
A partially torn quad tendon could easily disrupt the biomechanics of the area and put undue stress on the kneecap, a major issue for a player that missed the first season of his career with a patella stress fracture. Griffin also tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee during the summer of 2012, another injury that will have to be considered during his recovery.
Finding a recent NBA comparison of Griffin’s specific injury is difficult. A majority of the quadriceps injuries in the league occur in the muscle belly and not the tendon, though Carlos Boozer missed 44 games of the 2008-09 season with a quad tendon strain that ultimately needed surgery. Several players, including Randy Foye and Luke Ridnour, have missed substantial amounts of time with Grade 2 quadriceps strains though their injuries were to the muscle belly and not the tendon itself.
Partial quadriceps tendon tears may be relatively uncommon but multiple players have endured comparable patellar tendon injuries in recent seasons. Last year New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony limped through a majority of the season with a partially torn patellar tendon before ultimately opting for surgery. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has also previously undergone surgery to address an incomplete patellar tendon issue. Even if surgery isn’t needed to repair the tendon itself, a debridement is often necessary to clean out scar tissue and other resulting debris.
The Clippers will reevaluate Griffin’s injury after two weeks of treatment but that doesn’t guarantee he will be back in action at that time. While every injury responds differently, the recoveries of players with similar injuries do not establish an encouraging precedent for Griffin. Los Angeles responded well last season collecting nine wins when Griffin was sidelined 15 games with a staph infection. However this year’s squad isn’t performing at the same level and will miss Griffin’s scoring and rebounding ability. Josh Smith started in Griffin’s place on Saturday but played just under five minutes as Doc Rivers turned to Paul Pierce in a win over the Jazz.