All the information coming from the Thunder about Russell Westbrook is, as you’d expect, trying to put a positive spin on a pretty negative situation. That Westbrook should experience a full recovery, that it was good that he got a full repair on his meniscus in April, that he was progressing and this scope is a minor deal.
But all that said, the big question looms: After all of this, will Russell Westbrook be the same? He says he’s not going to change the way he plays, but will his newly reconstructed knee have a say in that?
On ESPN LA Now (h/t Anthony Slater of NewsOK.com), orthopedic surgeon Robert Klapper expressed hesitation about Westbrook’s recovery, and explained why his return has taken longer than usual (his comments start at about 26 minutes in):
“So this is what’s going on. I want you to think of the meniscus as a slice of apple pie,” Klapper said. “If you tear the meniscus where the tip of the slice is, we clean it up and you’re playing within a few weeks. But, in the case of Russell Westbrook, he tore his meniscus where the crust of the slice of pie is. That’s in an area where we try to repair it when it tears there because there’s good circulation. We call it the red-red zone. Those are the cases, where when you operate, you got to keep the person on crutches, protect their weight-bearing and they’re not coming back right away. So that tells us that the first time they put stitches in, it obviously didn’t work and they’re trying to do it yet again.”
If you’ll remember, Westbrook had his leg immobilized following his surgery in late April and was on crutches until he threw them into a pool in mid-June.
“Well, just like real estate, what do they say?” he continued. “Location, location, location. When we are talking about the lateral meniscus, the meniscus on the outside of your knee, versus the medial meniscus, the difference between the two is the lateral meniscus gets all the rotational pivoting when you make maneuvers. And that is Russell Westbrook’s game. It’s not just a pounding structure, it’s actually a rotatory stabilizer. So his game is absolutely going to be impacted because it’s the lateral meniscus and not the medial meniscus.”
Emphasis mine because it’s terrifying.
Now, before these next couple quotes, remember what Presti said Tuesday — Westbrook’s meniscus was healed, this was just an arthroscopic clean-up procedure to reduce swelling and that Westbrook was looking great prior to this second surgery.
“He will not be as explosive as he was before,” Klapper said. “He’ll still be ahead of the game because he’s so superior of an athlete. But the lateral meniscus now being repaired twice, he’s probably going to be 10 percent, 90 percent compared to 100 percent.
“His game is about to change,” he said. “He will not have the same burst he had before. He’ll still be Russell Westbrook, but he’s not the old Russell Westbrook.”
I’m not going to pretend for one second that I’m smarter than Dr. Klapper, but it seems that he’s under the assumption that Westbrook had his meniscus operated on a second time. When in fact, all Westbrook had — again, according to Sam Presti and the Thunder — was a scope to help alleviate some swelling caused by a loose stitch.
Presti actually made it a point to say multiple times that the scope revealed Westbrook’s meniscus was healed fully, in fact. Again, Dr. Klapper > Dr. Royce, but it seems there’s a little misunderstanding of the procedure Westbrook had this week.
That’s great news, agreed Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist from the Medical University of South Carolina. In these kinds of situations, Geier said “the first thing to think about when you have the swelling” is the meniscus not being repaired properly.
In regards to the unique prognosis of a loose stitch causing all the trouble, Geier said “It’s not really common, but it absolutely can happen.” Swelling comes from all sorts of issues, said Geier, and in this case it was likely foreign material (loose stitch) that irritated and inflamed the joint.
“I don’t think that that implies anything wrong has been done (in the original surgery),” Geier said. “Shouldn’t be an enormous setback, actually.”
And exhale. A little bit, at least.
But what’s it all mean? Don’t really know. What we know is Russell Westbrook will be out until at least December and when he returns, we’ll find out the rest.