Russell Westbrook's return to the Thunder could be as soon as 10-14 days or could take months, says a doctor who is an expert in sports injuries and recovery.
The Thunder point guard suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee Wednesday night in Game 2 of the playoff series against the Houston Rockets. The Thunder announced Friday that Westbrook would undergo surgery.
Dr. David Geier of the Medical University of South Carolina said Westbrook's recovery time will be determined by whether the injury requires a “trim” or a “repair” of the meniscus. Certain tears are such a big part of the meniscus, they require doctors to sew the tear back together.
Geier said Westbrook's doctors “probably don't know” the extent of the injury.
“The MRI is notoriously bad at predicting one or the other,” Geier said.
Geier is 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.
Geier described the meniscus as a c-shaped shock absorber in the knee. “Tears of the meniscus typically don't heal,” Geier said, thus requiring surgery.
Geier said if Westbrook has the more 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.”
But Geier said when it's merely a trim, patients often are on their feet that day and can proceed as much as 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.”
Geier said the pain associated with a meniscus tear is not constant. “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.”
Geier said that typically, there is nothing preventing immediate surgery. “Basically when it's best for the athlete,” Geier said. “Would not at all surprise me if he already had the surgery or had it sometime today.”