Bad news arrived Friday morning for Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, but the biggest news has yet to come.
The three-time All-Star is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee Wednesday night during Game 2 of his team’s playoff series against the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder did not have a specific timetable for Westbrook’s return and announced surgery would take place “in the coming days.”
The biggest news will come when surgery is performed and doctors are able to determine whether the meniscus is slightly torn, or in need of repair.
Although the Thunder’s official release said Westbrook will undergo surgery to repair the tear, Dr. David Geier of the Medical University of South Carolina said Westbrook’s recovery time could be as little as 10-14 days with a slight tear that requires a “trim.”
Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace suffered a meniscus tear to his left knee one month ago and returned 12 days after surgery.
If the meniscus is torn, doctors could have to sew the tear back together and recovery time would take several months.
Geier said Westbrook’s doctors at this point “probably don’t know” the extent of the injury.
“The MRI is notoriously bad at predicting one or the other,” said Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and director of MUSC Sports Medicine in Charleston. He has served as orthopedic consultant for the U.S. women’s soccer team.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin recalled he was able to return six days after surgery on his meniscus while playing collegiately at Oklahoma, but his did not have to be repaired.
“As long as you’re not repairing, you can come back pretty quickly,” Griffin said. “But you’re a step slow. It takes a little bit to get that feeling back and to get the swelling completely out and all that.”
Westbrook suffered the injury with 5:34 left in the second quarter of Game 2 at Chesapeake Energy Arena when Houston guard Patrick Beverley cut in front of Westbrook while he was calling for a timeout.
Westbrook fell to the floor after his right knee collided with the left side of Beverley’s hip. An angry Westbrook hopped to his feet, slammed the scorer’s table in frustration and glared in Beverley’s direction before slowly returning to the Thunder bench.
Following the collision, a hobbled Westbrook remained in the game, scored 20 points thereafter and played all 24 minutes of the second half.
Geier described the meniscus as a c-shaped shock absorber in the knee. “Tears of the meniscus typically don’t heal,” Geier said, therefore requiring surgery.
If Westbrook’s injury requires extensive repair, he would need to stay off his feet for several weeks. “No weight bearing,” Geier said. “Limit motion to certain range. You have to get the meniscus to heal.”
Geier said when the surgical procedure is merely a trim, patients often are on their feet that day and can proceed as much as their pain tolerance allows. “It takes a little time to get the swelling down,” Geier said. “Most people are walking around the house, around town, in two or three days. Then lightly jogging.”
The pain associated with a meniscus tear is not constant and “It’s typically twisting-type motions,” Geier said. “Planting your foot, changing directions. It’s very hard to play basketball because of the twisting and cutting motions.”