On the eve of the season opener, the Los Angeles Clippers got terrible news about their No. 1 overall pick, forward Blake Griffin. Examination revealed a stress fracture of Griffin’s left patella, which the team says will sideline him up to six weeks. To get perspective on the uncommon injury, I turned to Dr. Bill Carroll. Dr. Carroll is the author of the forthcoming Carroll Guide to Sports Injuries, to be published soon online by Football Outsiders and co-edited by his son, Prospectus staple Will Carroll.
“Patellar stress fractures are relatively rare injuries–normally seen in distance runners and those who jump high and, more importantly, land,” wrote Dr. Carroll in an e-mail. “Prognosis will depend on two factors, (1) whether the patellar retinaculum is intact (and it usually is in a stress fracture) and (2) the direction of the fracture–transverse or longitudinal.
“The bad news is it sounds like they intend to treat it conservatively rather than surgically attach wires–conservative treatments usually lead to less successful results and subsequent reinjury if the athlete is to continue to perform at a high level. I have seen the ESPN replay of the injury and it appears to happen when he landed after dunkiing–since it is a stress fracture, that event can actually be no more than the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ as a stress fracture is the result of repeated microtrauma–a case where subthreshold traumas accumulate and become threshold trauma.”