NBA teams are just days into training camp and the injuries for the 2015-16 season have already begun. Two Eastern Conference contenders were hit hard with ailments that will require surgery for key backcourt players. In Chicago, Bulls guard Derrick Rose is slated for surgery after suffering a facial fracture during practice while Cleveland swingman Iman Shumpert is out after undergoing wrist surgery.
Rose’s injury is fairly common in the NBA as multiple players have suffered fractures to the face and skull. Last season alone guards Victor Oladipo, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, and Mike Conley all missed time recovering from various facial fractures. InStreetClothes.com has previously looked into the trends of these injuries but let’s so a quick review.
The skull is made up of two primary parts, the area that surrounds the brain and the facial skeleton. The facial skeleton is comprised of 14 fused bones that serve as anchors for the various muscles of the face. Of these 14 bones, the two nasal bones are the most frequently broken while the eye socket, or orbit, is also susceptible to injury.
The orbit is made up from bones of the face and the neurocranium and surrounds and protects the eyeball. Injuries to the area are particularly complicated as the eye can be damaged and vision problems can arise. The severity of the fractures depends on the bones involved, whether or not they shift, size of the actual fracture, and any soft tissue and/or muscle damage. Surgery is often performed if the damage is severe and a bone has displaced. Any considerable damage to the eyeball would also warrant surgical intervention.
Multiple factors help shape an individual’s return to play. To start any concussion-related symptoms have to dissipate. Second, if surgery is required then the length of time missed is often extended. Finally the bone or bones involved also shape a potential recovery window. Nasal fractures and cheekbones often heal quickly as was the case last year when Westbrook missed just one game due to a zygomatic arch fracture. However this fracture is away from the eye socket and any associated vision issues are avoided. Orbital fractures that require a trip to the operating table have forced NBA players to miss an average of 13.6 game or roughly three to four weeks.
The Bulls have yet to release a firm timetable for Rose’s expected to recovery though history suggests he has a realistic chance of being ready for the regular season opener on October 27 when Chicago hosts Cleveland. Last season, Oladipo suffered an orbital fracture during the preseason and was back in action 20 days after his surgery.
While Rose’s availability remains in the air, Shumpert will not be in uniform as he is expected to miss three months recovering from wrist surgery. The former first-round pick sustained a rupture of the sheath that surrounds the tendon of the extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU). The ECU sits on the pinkie side of the lower arm and is responsible for extending the wrist and performing a motion known as adduction (similar to a karate chop). Fluid motion is dependent on arm position and to aid in stability the tendon of the muscle is anchored down by a sheath of connective tissue. The sheath is vulnerable to injury, particularly following repetitive motion like those performed by golfers and tennis players. However the sheath can be injured following an isolated high-stress episode, like slamming your wrist on the rim during a dunk. While ruptures are rare, surgery remains the best option and has a high success rate.
Comparable injuries in the NBA are hard to come by. Rashard Lewis suffered a tendon sheath tear in his right hand that caused him to miss 52 days and 22 games. Shumpert’s current teammate James Jones suffered a more extensive injury in a similar area when he tore the tendon of the extensor muscle during the 2008-09 season. Jones returned to action 86 days (2 months and 25 days) later after missing 36 games for the Heat. While the sample size is small, these examples suggest the current timeline released by the Cavaliers is reasonable and perhaps a bit conservative. However it seems likely that Shumpert sits for the first 20 to 25 games of the regular season.
Last year’s NBA season was dominated by injury and unfortunately this year isn’t off to the best of starts. Fortunately neither one of the injuries can be considered season-ending and both players should be able to help their respective team contend for the Eastern Conference crown.