Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving will undergo a “minimally invasive procedure” tomorrow. That breaking news has left fans racking their brains and biting their nails to find out what exactly this means.
To help with that hunt for the truth, Adam Kaufman and Celtics Beat welcomed in Dr. Selene Parekh, professor of orthopedic surgery at Duke University to detail some of the possible outcomes from deep dive into Irving’s kneecap.
The procedure will be done to better evaluate the state of his knee. That includes everything in there; the bone, the cartilage, the tissue and the screws that were inserted after he broke his kneecap back in 2015.
Of course, without examining the knee himself, Parekh can only speculate. With Saturday’s procedure, the Celtics will be learning a lot.
What they may learn, however, could terrify Celtics fans. If the procedure reveals that he has developed arthritis or he is missing cartilage underneath the kneecap, recovery could be as long as four to six months. Arthritis could even be a lifelong issue that Irving will have to contend with.
“My bigger concern, and we keep hearing from the Celtics camp that’s there’s no structural damage. But my bigger concern whenever you break the kneecap there is permanent damage to the cartilage on the undersurface of the kneecap,” Parekh told Celtics Beat. “Does he have early arthritis starting to affect that kneecap? Or does he have a chunk of cartilage that’s missing that’s causing him to have knee pain
“If it’s arthritis or a chunk of cartilage being missing, this is something that will affect his career. If it’s just the hardware then it’s a one-and-done scenario. You take out the screws, you rehab him, and it’s done.”
Everyone in Celtics Nation, and likely the NBA as a whole, is hoping for the latter.
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) March 23, 2018
However, that should be considered a worst-case scenario right now. Dr. Parekh also detailed a couple other potential results from this scope.
“Now, sometimes those screws can irritate either the patellar tendon, or the quadricep tendon,” he said. “If those are the scenarios where the screws are irritating the knee, then taking them out is a good idea because you can get rid of that irritation.”
With NBA players, especially ones as active and reliant on lower body athleticism as Irving, this can cause major discomfort. However, removing the screws at this point would require six to eight weeks of recovery time, according to Parekh. The downtime allows those screw holes to fill with bone.
“6-8 weeks to really do meaningful basketball activities, really be running full speed on the court, and working on his shooting in a meaningful way,” he told Kaufman. “He just won’t put tremendous thrust to that knee for 6-8 weeks. So the timeline is if he had the surgery you want him out 6-8 weeks, you shut him down.”
That’s part of the good news here. When pressed for even better news – by Kaufman asking if this could be simple pain management – Parekh brought some cold water with a cringe-worthy analogy.
“Imagine if I took the end of a screw, and I took a cloth and I just had you rub that cloth back-and-forth on that screw end. Over time, that cloth is going to rip and that screw is going to go right through,” detailed the Duke professor. “So the one danger is if he’s already having a lot of pain and you calm him down and get him back out there, and you continue to irritate the tendon up against the screw. The concern is: “Do you eventually rip through the tendon?”