In the wake of the knee surgery that No. 1 pick and New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson had this week, speculation has been rampant that perhaps the rookie himself was to blame. At 285 pounds, Williamson is a large guy, the heaviest non-center in the league. The argument has been that Williamson’s lack of conditioning put him at risk for his knee injury.
That’s been a narrative that New Orleans VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin has been battling. And it’s a stand that Dr. Steven Struhl, Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and a member of the faculty at NYU Medical School, backs up.
“I read some stuff about this case with that,” Dr. Struhl told Heavy.com, “where they were asking those kinds of questions. And someone said it’s absolutely absurd that his weight would put him at risk for this kind of thing and I agree. That’s ridiculous. Otherwise, every 300-pound basketball player would be ripping the lateral meniscus every time they played.”
Williamson had surgery on Monday to remove a piece of torn meniscus from his right knee. The much-anticipated rookie stoked excitement in New Orleans by averaging 23.2 points in the preseason, but the Pelicans opted to address the knee issue ahead of the start of the season.
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Zion Williamson Could Return Ahead of Schedule
In announcing the surgery, the Pelicans said that Williamson would be expected back in 6-to-8 weeks. Because Williamson had a debridement and not a full repair, the healing process is very short. In a debridement, the affected piece of the meniscus is removed and the only healing needed is to the skin where the incision was made.
Williamson might even be expected to return a bit ahead of the 6-to-8 week schedule. The Pelicans play Oklahoma City at home on December 1, which would be one day ahead of the six-week mark. That points to Williamson potentially missing the first 20 games of the season.
“That’s completely on target,” Dr. Struhl said. “There’s zero healing, it’s just the skin that heals. The knee is going to need a little time to settle down after surgery. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is on the early side of that 6-8 weeks.”
David Griffin Denies Zion’s Weight Had Anything to Do With Injury
Pelicans doctors declined to repair Williamson’s meniscus, a sign that the torn portion of the meniscus was either small or located in a position which was not accessible to blood flow, which is required for healing. A repair is the preferred treatment, especially in a young player like Williamson, but relatively few meniscus tears are amenable to being fixed that way.
As for how Williamson was injured, Griffin called it, “asinine,” to suggest that Williamson’s weight had something to do with the tear. Dr. Struhl agrees. It’s impossible to know when, exactly, Williamson injured the meniscus—and it could go back to the knee sprain Williamson had at Duke back in February when his shoe famously blew out during a game.
“It’s bad luck,” Dr. Struhl said. “It’s possible it had been injured before, going back to when his sneaker fell apart and he fell down. The question is, maybe he ripped it a little bit then and it has been nursed along and all the sudden now he’s gotten to the point where it is showing itself and you can’t work around it. And when he did it matters a lot in terms of the decision to fix it or do the debridement. If you rip it and you don’t fix it for six months, you’re not going to get it to heal. That would be trickier.”