After a Severe Knee Injury, Can Athletes Get Back to Top Form?

2014-11-28 11:23:10 by Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine, as posted on the blog.

Russell Westbrooke Russell Westbrook

Point guard Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder recently suffered from a knee injury thatís going to take him out for the rest of the season.

Itís really going to affect the play-offs this year because the Thunder had a real shot at going all the way if he were healthy.

Today, I stopped by the WAKR studio and spoke with host Ray Horner about Westbrookís injury and other recent knee injuries, such as those suffered by Marcus Lattimore and Derrick Rose.

I also discussed the importance of implementing AED protocols. With sporting activities spreading outdoors, schools must have procedures in place for this life-saving device in the event an athlete falls to the ground.

Below is a transcript of our discussion.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

Horner: Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Childrenís Hospital, in our studio once a month, pays us a visit. We do a little expansion on, certainly, sports medicine, and Dr. Joe is really tied in to the latest information on that stuff.

I guess letís go to knee injuries right away. The young point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder is out. This is a tear that you see quite a bit, donít you? And, it was weird the way it happened.

Dr. Congeni: Yeah, you know, it was weird the way it happened. Itís such a big affect on the play-offs. You know, injury is just one of those things.

Horner: Oh yeah, heís one of the top 10 players in the league.

Dr. Congeni: Yeah, you drop him out and itís gonna make it very tough on the Thunder and itís gonna make it probably easier on the Heat. But if youíre in sports, injuries are going to have an affect.

So, Russell Westbrook, an odd injury, a torn cartilage. You know, the cartilage is called the meniscus. There are two of these cartilage pads in the knee. He tore the one on the outside ó the lateral meniscus.

You hear in sports, particularly at the professional level, that a lot of times you get these scopes done and you can be back playing really quickly. So, thatís what they were kind of battling back and forth. Hey, they have a run at winning it all this year if heís healthy. And so they talked about that.

But, the type of tear he had was in the area where thereís blood flow to it and you can actually fix it. For the long term of the knee, itís better to fix it or repair it than it is to trim it out.

If you trim it out, you can get back playing quicker. If itís the type of tear that needs to be repaired, itís going to be several months because you have to wait for that thing to heal again. So several months, heís done for this year.

They ended up with a repairable thing. Itís better for the long term of his knee because he wonít lose that pad. In the old days, we just would tear that cartilage out, trim it out, and then you donít have anything as a shock absorber in that knee for the rest of your career.

In his case, they were able to save it, they repaired it, but heís going to be out for a couple of months and they lose a window of opportunity in Oklahoma. I think itís going to be tough for them to win.

Horner: Joe, and speaking of knee injuries, a devastating knee injury last fall. Go back to last weekendís NFL draft, San Francisco selected Marcus Lattimore, running back from South Carolina.

Last yearís (injury) was devastating where his leg was basically twisted around ó real devastating. Talk about the difficulty of coming back from an injury like that and can he get back to top form again?

Dr. Congeni: You know, those are tough and they call that the triad injury because you tear more than one ligament. That is one where you tear a couple different ligaments in the knee and some cartilage ó like the cartilage we were just talking about on Westbrook.

So, itís three things that are torn and thatís why they call it the triad injury.

And you remember back to the National Championship game, Willis McGahee (Denver Broncos running back) many years ago, he got back. Itís an injury you donít expect back the first year.

Thatís one that takes more like two years. It takes a long time to recover.

You know, I think you could see Lattimore playing again, but itís gonna be far down the road. And the way it is these days, theyíre not going to wait in the NFL.

He ended up dropping significantly as to one of the top backs and, you know, taken much later because youíre going to have to be patient with that one. Itís going to be a couple years down the road.

Horner: Well, they said, they actually are going to give him like a red-shirt year, where theyíre not even going to look at working him in. In a year and a half, two years down the road is what theyíre looking at.

Congeni: Yeah, you know that Ohio coach over there is doing some pretty smart things with the 49ers. If you had to say look ahead to a team thatís gonna be really big next year, look ahead to San Francisco. Itís a really smart thing because heís not going to be ready in a year. That triad injury is devastating.

Horner: Major advancements though, Joe, it seems in these recoveries. I think of Adrian Peterson in the NFL who had a real difficult one. He came back last year and was the best running back in the NFL.

Congeni: Right. But you know, people have problems figuring it out. What about Derrick Rose (of the Chicago Bulls) on the other side.

Horner: Yeah, exactly.

Congeni: You and I have talked about that and everybodyís scratching their heads, ďWhat the heck?Ē This was the one-year anniversary for Derrick Rose. Youíre saying, man, Peterson was back in almost half a year, six months plus. And, in the meantime, Derrick Rose isnít back in a year.

Horner: ?

Congeni: Iím irritated by a lot of people getting on him about the standpoint itís all in his head and itís a mental thing and all that kind of stuff because you just donít know.

Remember, I talked about the functional ? We donít know the functional part about where is his strength percentage wise. Where is that explosiveness that he has? I told you guys the surgeon said he was structurally okay, but the rehab people that are working him out, theyíre saying . What is his strength, his balance, his explosion? We donít know any of those things. And to say thatís all in the young kidís head, thatís not fair to the athlete.

Horner: Dr. Joe, you wanted to talk a little bit more about AEDs this morning?

Congeni: Well, thereís no doubt, you know, that spring now is definitely here. Weíve been thinking okay, itís made a few appearances, but everything has moved outside. Itís a lot easier in the winter. Weíre all in a gym in one place with the AEDs.

Now, Iím really making that plea, make sure that the schools and everything get their protocols together of where theyíre gonna have that life-saving device. Make sure that youíre checking the batteries that itís working. Make sure that all the coaches know how to use this.

Every year in this country thereís still 10 or 15 people that go down. We donít have the abilities of screening everybody on the front-end, so on the back-end, we have to do as good a job with the AEDs .

We have a meeting at ABIA (Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron) again next week about how to put protocols together to get this life-saving device in the right hands.

So, we get all excited about it, schools may have two or three of them, but where do you use them in the spring?

There are so many venues. You go out to a school, and the softball players are playing way out here, and the track athletes are here and lacrosse is at another place and volleyball is in the gym.

We have to make sure that you have those plans in place. If a kid were to go down somewhere, how are we going to get that life-saving device ó the very easy to use, third graders can use it ó get it to the chest of a young person? Itís life saving if somebody goes down.

And right now, every school and everybody has to be reviewing their protocols and be ready for those life-saving events.

Horner: So, what are schools doing in those situations where baseball and softball are on opposite sides of the campus?

Congeni: Well, if you have two or three of them, you know, you may have one in the area where baseball and another track. Some schools have it on their cart.

You know those medical carts that we have? If you load it on the cart at the beginning of the day, walkie-talkie type system, if somebodyís down in the gym, you take that cart and get back over to the gym.

Thatís a way that a lot of people are using it. But, just review those protocols. They can be life saving.

Horner: Alright, Joe, thanks for coming on in. As always, we appreciate it.

Congeni: Alright, Ray. Have a great day. Thanks.

Horner: Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Childrenís Hospital with us at 1590 WAKR.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

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