For the majority of the 2016-17 NBA season many have presumed the only thing that could threaten a third straight Finals meeting between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers is injury. This belief was initially challenged following Kevin Love’s knee debridement but the threat loomed particularly large Tuesday night when Kevin Durant limped off the court in a loss to the Wizards. Durant suffered a left knee injury when teammate Zaza Pachulia fell into the former MVPs leg. The impact forced Durant’s knee into hyperextension. The Warriors later confirmed the knee had been hyperextended though a specific diagnosis wouldn’t be available until after a MRI was performed.
Durant underwent imaging late Tuesday night where it was determined he suffered a Grade 2 medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain and tibial bone contusion. While the Warriors will be forced to navigate at least the next four weeks without Durant, the news is relatively good considering the other injuries that were in play.
The diagnosis from Golden State provides great insight to the injury including the ligament involved and the severity of the damage. The MCL, along with the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL), stabilizes the knee. The MCL is specifically responsible for supporting the knee in lateral or side-to-side movements. Warriors fans are far too familiar with MCL injuries as this is the exact ligament Steph Curry sprained during last year’s playoff run.
Curry’s injury was a Grade 1 sprain, meaning the damage was minimal and the overall integrity of the ligament was intact. Durant’s sprain is a Grade 2 injury, a more moderate sprain. In Grade 2 sprains, damage has occurred to the individual ligament fibers and is sometimes referred to as a partial or incomplete tear. Fortunately MCL sprains of this magnitude can heal without surgical intervention, especially if the medial meniscus remains uninvolved.
Durant will now spend time resting and rehabbing the area in anticipation of the postseason. The Warriors stated he will be re-evaluated in four weeks but that doesn’t mean that’s when he will be back in uniform. The InStreetClothes.com injury database has 12 in-season examples of Grade 2 MCL sprains, including players like Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gobert. The average number of games missed for these players sits at 21 games or roughly six weeks. The Warriors have 22 regular season games remaining.
The tibia bone bruise will also play a role in his recovery. Bone contusions, especially in weight-bearing areas can be slow to repair and require ample time to appropriately heal. Bone injuries, particularly bone contusions, have been a problematic injury in the NBA this season.
The injury is without a doubt a deterrent for the best team in the West but it does appear the Warriors avoided a season-altering setback. For now, Golden State will lean heavily on their remaining superstars to insure they remain locked into the top seed while Durant will work closely with the team’s highly respected medical staff.