Knee Injuries And The Home Viewer

Posted by jstevrtc on February 25th, 2010

Whether or not you’ve had a knee injury of any kind in the past, there aren’t many things that make people cringe more readily than watching a game on TV and seeing that slow-motion replay of a gruesome injury, especially when it involves an athlete’s knee(s).  The only thing stranger than seeing that joint go out of place and do that strange contortion for a split-second (I shudder every time) is watching it from multiple angles in super-slo-mo in high definition while an announcer narrates it — “Oh yeah, THERE it is!”

We saw this during Robbie Hummel’s injury last night.  When he drove into the lane and planted that right leg — you saw it.  Something happened, and it was unnatural.  Then the slow-motion replays gave you a better look at it.  It’s the usual story — a player plants their (usually in-turned) leg, but the top part of the knee keeps moving while the bottom stays still.  Pop.  The first thing people think when a player goes down and grabs a knee is “Uh oh, ACL.”  They’re often right, and unfortunately, though the MRI is pending, that looks like the case for Hummel.

You may ask how can they make that diagnosis without the MRI pictures.  Good question.  Doctors know that the physical exam is more important than any pictures you get.  The next time you’re watching television and a player (in any sport) goes down with a knee injury, watch what the doctor or trainer does.  There’s one specific thing that they almost always do first in evaluating the knee right there on the floor or field, or when they get the player back to the bench — there’s a test that checks the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) almost immediately.

It’s called the “Anterior Drawer” test.  Here’s what you’ll see.  The doctor/trainer will lay the player on their back and bend the knee they’re checking to about a 90 degree angle.  They’ll grab the leg at the calf with both hands, with their thumbs up to stabilize against the knee.  Then they’ll pull forward on the bottom part of the leg as if they were opening a drawer.  At this point, the player will usually yell loudly.  This alone doesn’t tell you anything, since if I’d just hurt my knee and some putz started messing with it, the foot on my good leg would immediately rise up and head for the doctor/trainer’s face or testicles.  What they’re feeling for is how much that bottom part of the leg slides forward at the knee when they do the drawer-opening motion.  If it’s a lot, your suspicion for an ACL tear goes way up.  If it’s not much or it feels normal, an ACL tear is still on the list, but not as likely.  But quite often, you can literally see the result there on television.  You can see the bottom part of the knee slide unnaturally forward (anteriorly) when the ACL is torn.  MRIs are best for looking at ligaments (you can’t see them on a normal x-ray), and that almost always gets done, but this is how doctors make a “preliminary” diagnosis even without the pictures.  There are other tests besides the Anterior Drawer to check the ACL, but that’s the one doctors and trainers most often use first, and the one you see them use most often right there on TV.

By the way, there’s also a Posterior Drawer test that checks the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in the back of the knee, where you push backward instead of forward.  Same principle applies.  One last thing — don’t go doing these things on your friends.  The next time you see a knee injury on TV, though, watch the doctor/trainer do their exam.  Or more specifically, check out their Drawers.

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Texas Loses Its Starting Point Guard: Good Thing?

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2010

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: We’re not suggesting in our title that it’s a good thing for a player who regularly busts his hump and sacrifices blood, sweat and tears for his coach, teammates and fans to get injured.  But like Wally Pipp to Lou Gehrig or Rodrick Rhodes to Ron Mercer, sometimes good things at the program level can arise as a byproduct of unfortunate situations. 

Could the Loss of Balbay End Up Helping Texas?

Texas losing starting point guard Dogus Balbay to an ACL injury over the weekend versus Texas Tech may just be one of those situations.  The junior point guard from Turkey has started all but five games this year, contributing 4 PPG, 3 RPG and 4 APG in just over twenty minutes per contest.  He’s known as a defensive player, a perception that becomes even more clear once you see his shooting percentages of 50% from the foul line and 10% from three.  Yeah, you read that right.  The Longhorn guard who plays over half the minutes at his position needn’t be defended outside of the paint.  Still, Barnes loves his toughness and intensity, especially on the non-scoring end of the court, and he has continued to play Balbay heavy minutes.  In the five Big 12 games prior to Balbay’s injury, he had scored a total of four points in 93 minutes (with nine assists, six turnovers and 15 fouls). 

The two issues that Texas has struggled with this year are: 1) finding offensive consistency and flow; and related, 2) a clear definition of player roles.  It’s a tired cliche that coaches can occasionally have too much talent at their disposal, but this Texas team seems to fit the bill, and it’s most noticeable in a crowded backcourt.  Avery Bradley, Justin Mason, J’Covan Brown, Jai Lucas, and Balbay are all getting minutes there, with Mason, Brown and Lucas all spending time running the show.  From our viewings of UT games with Balbay as the point, the offense regularly bogs down in the halfcourt as defenses sag off of him to cover the other scoring threats on the floor.  When Brown or even Lucas is acting as the lead guard, there are clearly more boneheaded decisions running the offense, but there is also a greater opportunity for scoring.  And that’s where Texas struggles: putting the ball in the basket.  The Horns are elite defensively, holding teams to 39% from the field and 30% from three, but they’re only an average offensive team this year. 

Too Much Talent in Austin?

 It seems that Balbay’s injury, by virtue of the open position and 20+ minutes per game, will force Barnes to make a decision himself as to the tradeoff he’s willing to give up.  Brown is a gifted perimeter scorer prone to forced shots and sometimes-selfish play; his coach recently went on record saying that the freshman guard won’t play until he learns about preparation, consistency and accountability.  Lucas, on the other hand, is less gifted and plays more under control, but it’s clear that the junior transfer from Florida hasn’t had a chance to get comfortable in his new environs yet.  Mason is a senior whom Barnes trusts, but he’s another non-scoring threat just like Balbay. 

Whomever Barnes decides to hand the reins of his team to, that player will at least have the luxury of knowing that his minutes will likely increase and he’s not going to be yanked for one poor decision.  Perhaps that simple change in expectations will allow the backcourt to finally settle into their roles, even at this late point in the season.  Because if Texas can use this disappointment to finally figure out how to get consistent heady play and scoring from the perimeter, they suddenly become that team we all thought they could be.  And isn’t that what Barnes and Texas fans all ultimately want? 

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Tyler Zeller To Return Today Versus UNC

Posted by nvr1983 on February 20th, 2010

News out of Chapel Hill indicates that Tyler Zeller will be returning to action for UNC today at Boston College after sitting out a month with a stress fracture in his right foot. By now, everyone is familiar with the Tar Heels woes this season, which will most likely end in the NIT assuming they manage to win two of their last five games (yeah, it does sound crazy that they could actually finish below .500 and not qualify for the NIT). However, when Zeller injured his foot just prior to the Heels game against Clemson, they were 12-4 and #9 in the country despite a shocking (at the time) loss to Charleston. Following Zeller’s injury the Heels were blown out by the Tigers losing 8 of 10 games and reached a point where Roy Williams compared this season to the earthquake in Haiti.

Carolina Really Needs This Guy Right Now

With the loss of Ed Davis and Travis Wear for the rest of the season, the Heels could use Zeller on the inside even if his game and minutes will be a shell of what they were earlier in the season. While we don’t agree with Williams who said of his team, “There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m still confident [Ed. Note: We’re not exactly sure what that phrase actually means] we can go on a run and be in the [NCAA] tournament,” UNC fans could use a bit of good news and seeing Zeller have a solid return should give them hope for next season when they return most of their team except for Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson while they add a solid recruiting class that is headlined by Harrison Barnes.

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Travis Wear Sprains Ankle, Looks Forward To Some RICE

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2010

North Carolina’s Travis Wear was seemingly gaining confidence and comfort with his role on the current UNC squad with every game in which he appeared as the season progressed.  Through a combination of his own progression as a player and some team injuries, Wear had worked his way up to being Roy Williams‘ first or second option off the bench.  That’s going to have to wait, now, since Wear went up for a rebound during practice on Tuesday and came down on a teammate’s foot, spraining his left ankle badly enough to where he will not play against Duke on Wednesday.  Imaging showed no fracture, but he’s said to be out indefinitely.

The hits just keep coming for the Tar Heels. (AP/Julie Jacobson)

We’re guessing, though, that “indefinitely” in this case won’t be very long.  We’re assuming this is a simple inversion sprain (where the ankle “rolls” and the bottom of the foot goes inward) as opposed to the slightly more serious eversion sprain (where the bottom of the foot goes outward as the ankle gives way).  We know there’s no fracture.  That said, Wear is looking at several days of what doctors (and eighth-grade health class teachers) call RICE therapy.  That is: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  Put less elegantly, Wear will stay off the ankle, ice it down, wrap it up in something like an ACE, and keep that baby on a couple of pillows as he watches practice or chills in his room.  Throw in some anti-inflammatories, a couple of tricks from the UNC medical staff  — make no mistake, these trainers and team docs are a crafty bunch — and some exercises to get back the flexibility and strength to the area, and we bet Wear will be good as new in no time.

You know what else helps injuries heal?  Winning.  We’re wagering that if UNC pulls off a stunner against Duke tonight and then grabs another win at home against North Carolina State this Saturday, that ankle will feel immediately better.  We’re not saying Wear is milking the injury at all.  We’re saying that if UNC reels off a couple of big wins and is suddenly back in the NCAA Tournament conversation, he’ll want to get back as quickly as he can to help.

Either way, this means Heels like Deon Thompson, William Graves, and Ed Davis will have to play a few more minutes and avoid foul trouble, or a couple of Travis Wear’s fellow freshmen — specifically John Henson and Travis’ brother David Wear — have just become more important to the Tar Heel cause.

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Wisconsin’s Leuer Breaks Wrist, Out Indefinitely

Posted by jstevrtc on January 11th, 2010

The hallmark of Wisconsin basketball is efficiency, and they just lost their most efficient player.

It’s an instinctive thing to put your arms and hands out in front of you during a fall, because you want to use them as shock absorbers and cushion the blow.  Sometimes, the price for saving your head, neck, or chest is a broken bone in one of the upper extremeties if the fall is fast or awkward (or both).  Wisconsin junior forward Jon Leuer knows a little about this concept, learning about it on Saturday during the first half of the Badgers’ win over Purdue.  Attempting to reduce the impact from a fall, Leuer broke his left wrist, and there is no mention anywhere of when he might be able to return.

Leuer is the leading rebounder and shot-blocker for the Badgers, snagging 6.0 RPG and adding 1.1 BPG.  He has almost doubled his scoring output from last season, going from 8.8 PPG to this year’s 15.4 PPG, which is second on the team (Trevon Hughes averages only 0.4 PPG more).  His absence, though, will be felt in a slightly more subtle way.  If you’ve seen Wisconsin play, you know that they are the Ivan Lendl of college basketball.  Not a single movement is wasted, and they’re more than content to sit back and take their time, slug it out with you, wear you down with their physical and mental toughness, induce you into mistakes, then beat you with a mixture of power and intelligence.  Efficiency is the Bo Ryan mantra.

The problem for Wisconsin is that Leuer leads his team in just about all of the efficiency statistics.  Out of 345 Division I teams, Wisconsin ranks 337th in possessions per 40 minutes (62.5).  This is by design, but you can see how important it is that they score when they get the chance.  Wisconsin is good at this, ranking 15th nationally in points per possession (1.12).  Leuer averages 15.4 PPG but only plays 27.9 minutes in a game, on the average.  Extrapolating it out, Leuer averages 22.1 points for every 40 minutes he plays, a full two points higher than Hughes, who is second.  His overall efficiency rating and efficiency per possession numbers are also tops on the Badgers.

Wisconsin only turns the ball over an average of 9.2 times a game, second in the nation.  A team that prides itself on control and economy of this magnitude can only suffer when they lose the one player that basically embodies the style of the team.  While Leuer is on the shelf, Coach Ryan will have to try to find ways to squeeze even more points out of every precious possession but still take extra care of the basketball.  Most of all, he (and about every UW supporter) will be hoping that Leuer’s bones knit quickly.  Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow, but there’s been no mention of a timetable or even which bones were broken, so it’s tough to say how bad this is right now.  The only good thing is that…well, Wisconsin is the Dairy State, so there’s no shortage of calcium for those bones.

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Buzz: Evan Turner Will Play Tonight

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

This has been buzzing around for 24 hours, but it’s now been confirmed by Jeff Goodman that Ohio State superstar and November NPOY favorite Evan Turner will return to the court this evening in the Buckeyes’ home game against Indiana.  It was a little bizarre how everyone in Hoops Nation seemed to forget about Turner as soon as he broke several vertebrae in his back in a nasty fall versus Eastern Michigan.  We wrote in this space a month ago that Ohio State would be lucky to go .500 while he was out (expecting him to be on the mend until early February), and they’ve gone 3-3, losing all of their away games.  After tonight’s game against IU, the Buckeyes face games at Minnesota and Purdue, with a home game against Wisconsin.  OSU needs Turner back on the floor, and in a big way.  Even if he’s not 100% tonight or this weekend, his presence will go a long way toward keeping his team focused and calm.  This is great news for the Buckeyes, and even better news for college basketball. 

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Evan Turner Injured On Dunk Attempt; Out Eight Weeks

Posted by jstevrtc on December 5th, 2009

Usually when Ohio State’s excellent Evan Turner goes up for a dunk, it ends with the crowd looking on in disbelief.  Usually, that disbelief is a good thing.  Not so, this afternoon.  About seven minutes into the Buckeyes’ tilt against Eastern Michigan earlier today, Turner took a strong dribble into the lane, went up for a two-handed jam, took light contact going up, and couldn’t keep his grip on the rim as his legs kept going forward.  Turner was parallel to the ground…and then fell flat, producing that terrible disconcerting sound that you only hear with that particular type of fall.

Initial x-rays were negative, but more sensitive CT imaging at the OSU Med Center showed fractures of the transverse processes of the second and third lumbar vertebrae. 


The transverse processes are places where other ligaments and muscles attatch, lending to the flexibility of the area.  If there is no associated injury, transverse process fractures are almost always treated conservatively — that is, with rest and relaxation.  Sometimes patients will have to wear a corset or something similar to add stability for a while, but if you allow proper healing time, the long-term stability of the lower back usually isn’t affected.  Turner will be out eight weeks, though.  The length of his convalescence is because, unlike a broken arm or leg, this is not a part of the body that you can just slap into a cast and let it heal.

December is indeed a cruel month for the OSU basketball program.  Last December, of course, it was forward David Lighty who broke his foot and was out for the rest of the season, changing the complexion of the Buckeyes’ entire 2008-09 campaign.  It’s always unfortunate when any player gets hurt and misses so much time, but Evan Turner is by all reports one of the true great guys in the game.  We hope his recovery goes well.

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Mason Plumlee Fractures Wrist, Out Indefinitely

Posted by jstevrtc on November 12th, 2009

Duke freshman Mason Plumlee suffered a hard fall in practice yesterday which resulted in a fractured left wrist for the 6’10 forward from Warsaw, Indiana.  The good news for Plumlee is that the wrist will not require surgery, and the Duke medical team will re-evaluate the wrist on a weekly basis.  Plumlee had already begun to fulfill the expectations he brought with him to Durham by averaging 12 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks in Duke’s two preseason exhibition games.  The length of his recovery is dependent on the nature and location of the fracture, but an assumed 6-8 week convalescence would have Plumlee back in the Duke lineup around Christmas-time, at the earliest.

Plumlee was ranked as high as 10th in the ESPN 100 last year and was a likely starter for Duke’s first game against UNC-Greensboro this Friday.  For the time that he’s out, Plumlee’s contributions on the inside will certainly be missed as it means that the versatile Kyle Singler will have to be used more down in the low post as opposed to around the perimeter where the Blue Devils more urgently need him.

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Buzz: More Comings and Goings

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2009

Tennessee Loses Another Player.  This time it wasn’t under horrifically scary conditions, but senior guard Josh Tabb, who was already on indefinite suspension by Bruce Pearl, left the program to spend time with his ill mother.  He only played 17 MPG last season, but he was fairly effective providing backcourt depth to Bobby Maze and Scotty Hopson, averaging 3/2/2 and shooting a high percentage from the floor (51%/42%).  It’s looking more and more like UT will be playing five 6’7 guys at certain points of the season.  UT: the Golden State Warriors of college basketball. 

Stanford As Well.  Sophomore guard Jeremy Green, an all-Pac-10 freshman last season, was suspended indefinitely by Coach Johnny Dawkins for violation of unspecified team rules. In relatively limited action last year, Green averaged 6/2 and shot 46% from three-point range, but he was expected to become a major contributor this season as the young Cardinal begins rebuilding.  This comes on the heels of more bad news last week, when 6’8 freshman forward Andy Brown was lost for the season to a knee injury.  Assuming we don’t see Green back in uniform this season, it could be shaping up as a long year in Palo Alto for Dawkins in his second year there. 

Nimrod Will Play.  Billy Donovan received good news from the NCAA this week, as the governing body cleared point guard and soon-to-be-opposing-fan-favorite Nimrod Tishman to play this season at Florida.  The 6’5 Israeli freshman was a late pickup for the Gators after Nick Calathes bolted for the pros, but according to Donovan, he may not see much court action this season, as Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Ray Shipman are currently ahead of him on the depth chart. 

Uncertainty About John Wall.  The John Wall Circus continues in Lexington, as Coach John Calipari stated during last night’s post-scrimmage press conference that Wall “has been cleared in every way” even though the UK president, Lee Todd, is on record this week stating that the school and NCAA are investigating his association with Brian Clifton, his AAU coach who was also a certified agent at the time.  Worst case is Wall pays back a little bit of money and misses 10% of UK’s games (Nov. 13 – Morehead State; Nov. 16 – Miami (OH); Nov 19 – Sam Houston State).  Not a huge deal, although we’re pretty excited around here to see the guy play. 

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Buzz: Senseless Death of Hampton Captain Theo Smalling

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2009

Theo Smalling Dies as a Result of Accidental Shooting.  Really sad news from the Tidewater Virginia area today, as Hampton forward and team captain Theo Smalling died Monday night as a result of an accidental firearm shooting over the weekend.  Smalling was outside of a nightclub in the area when another man nearby mishandled a gun that went off, shooting Smalling in the abdomen.  No further details are available about the last few days, but it’s safe to assume that medical staff attended to his injuries to the best of their abilities, yet he passed yesterday.  Smalling, a senior at Hampton, was on pace to graduate this spring, and this is one of those stories that you just cannot stomach because he had his head on straight and his whole life ahead of him.  RIP, Theo.

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