The 2015-16 season will go down as a lost season for the New Orleans Pelicans as the team was overwhelmed by injuries from the start. Five Pelicans players have already been ruled out for the season, including the face of the franchise Anthony Davis. The three-time All-Star will undergo two surgeries in the coming days to address two reoccurring issues.
The primary concern is Davis’ knee. Davis revealed he is slated to undergo a procedure to address tendinosis in his left knee. Tendinosis is a degenerative condition and different from the more familiar tendinitis. Tendinitis occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed and is considered an acute injury. Depending on the location, tendinitis can often be treated with rest, practice modification, and anti-inflammatory medication. However, tendinosis is considered a chronic injury and is considered more significant. Tendinosis develops after a tendon has been damaged, and the initial injury does not heal appropriately or treatment is mismanaged. The condition is often painful as nerve fibers in the area are affected by the failed attempts to repair the injury site. Often in tendinosis the involved tendon is left weak and function is limited. Tendinosis can require a considerably longer recovery time and surgical intervention can be needed. A debridement procedure is often utilized to clean up and remove any damaged tissue and other debris in the area. Fortunately for Davis and the Pelicans the success rate of the surgery is high and he should be back in action in four to six months.
The decision to undergo knee surgery allowed Davis to address another chronic issue. Davis will also undergo surgery on his left shoulder to repair partially torn cartilage in the area. Reports indicate that Davis has been playing with the labrum injury since his rookie season and that he was aware surgery would eventually be required. It is likely the injury occurred in late February of 2013 during a contest against the Nets. Davis suffered what was ruled a left shoulder bone contusion and sprain that kept him out of New Orleans’ next two games. He returned to action six days later, wearing a brace on the area. The brace lasted just two games and Davis finished his rookie season without reporting any additional problems with the shoulder. Over the next two seasons Davis gave no outward indication that the shoulder was an issue though there were signs he was experiencing some problems.
In 2015, Davis began wearing elastic therapeutic tape (kinetic tape) on his left shoulder, starting with a February matchup against the Hawks. The tape remained until Davis suffered an acromioclavicular (AC) sprain on his opposite shoulder. This injury would force him to miss seven of New Orleans’ next nine games and cause him to miss the 2015 All-Star game. Upon his return Davis opted to wear a bilateral compression shirt under his jersey, a piece of gear that has become commonplace ever since.
Labrum tears in the NBA have been discussed at length here on InStreetClothes.com as multiple players, including Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, have endured the injury. The labrum is a fortifying structure of the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder, medically known as the glenohumeral joint. The glenohumeral joint is formed from one end of the humerus and a groove on the shoulder blade.
Together these structures loosely resemble a golf ball sitting on a tee. The head of the humerus plays the role of the golf ball while the glenoid cavity of the scapula act as the tee. The ball (head of the humerus) is free to move and rotate on the tee (glenoid) allowing for a large degree of motion. Here the labrum surrounds the head of the humerus, deepening the socket and insuring the ball remains stable on the tee. The surrounding musculature, connective tissue, and soft tissue also provide additional stability to the area.
Foregoing surgery and treating a labrum tear with nonoperative treatment options is common in the NBA. Several players include Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony have continued to play at a high level without surgery. Furthermore, a recent study showed nonoperative treatment for a labrum tear, including physical therapy, were successful in returning athletes to activity with improvements in function and pain. While surgery remained an eventual necessity in just over half of the analyzed cases, a conservative approach and a chance at avoiding surgery is a well-calculated option.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising to see New Orleans allow Davis to play with the injury over the past few seasons. It seems likely that the team was taking various steps to help the 23-year-old manage the injury and given Davis’ stellar play over the past two years it’s hard to disagree with their approach. Now with his knee issue slated to prematurely end his season, the team is taking advantage of a bad situation and having Davis address his shoulder concurrently.
The normal rehab protocol for each injury falls in a four-to-six month window, providing Davis ample time to recover in time for the 2015-16 season. Unfortunately the injuries will do little to stop Davis’ critics from slapping him with the dreaded “injury prone” label. Davis’ penchant for injury is hard to ignore as he has averaged 9.5 injuries or medical incidences per year since joining the NBA. In addition to his recent ailments, the Brow’s laundry list of injuries includes a left MCL sprain, a stress reaction in his left ankle, a fractured fifth metacarpal, and two concussions.
However Davis’ success despite the injuries is historic and a summer spent focusing on improving his body rather than playing basketball may prove beneficial. A systematic approach to each area of concern could put him in position to pinpoint any potential biomechanical issues and allow him to take the necessary steps to correct the problems. A healthy Davis would be a solid foundation for the Pelicans to build on and help the franchise make a quick return to relevance.