When word first broke that Russell Westbrook had to get his knee scoped to address swelling, many Thunder fans feared the worst. As a large contingent of NBA watchers and pros wondered what it might mean for OKC if Westbrook either missed much of the season or never regained his full explosiveness, WTLC brought the voice of an orthopaedic surgeon who understands both the surgery and rehab process, and with it a healthy dose of sanity.
After Westbrook was cleared to play in Sunday night's game against the Suns, everyone was stunned at the rapidity of his recovery while wondering if he was coming back too quickly. To address these questions, I turned once again to Dr. David Geier to answer a few questions and give his thoughts on Westbrook's state. Please note that Dr. Geier is not the surgeon who worked on Westbrook's knee, but that he is an orthopaedic surgeon who is an expert in the area of meniscus repair and rehabilitation, particularly as it pertains to top flight athletes.
Sherman: Are you surprised at Westbrook's return, which is apparently about 4 weeks ahead of schedule?
Dr. Geier: Not really. If an athlete undergoes an arthroscopic knee surgery where no work is done on the structures of the knee, such as the meniscus, ligaments, or cartilage, recovery is usually fairly quick. In Westbrook's case, the reports have suggested that he had a loose stitch present. If that is the case, the surgeon likely had to only use a shaver or grasper to remove it and do little else. After surgery, an athlete would then just need to get the swelling from surgery down, regain motion and strength, and work toward return to sports.
Sherman: Can you explain in layman's terms how the scope revealed the meniscus had totally healed? Is it a visual thing, or are there tests that the surgeon will do to make sure it is healed?
Dr. Geier: The surgeon can look at the meniscus through the scope and actually see whether the tear has healed. He can use a probe to poke and pull at the site of the former tear and see if it healed.
Sherman: Now that Westbrook is back on the court, what kinds of rehab will he continue to have to perform, and what will he and the Thunder medical staff have to pay close attention to, in order to prevent a re-injured knee?
Dr. Geier: An athlete will still have to work on controlling swelling, improving strength, range of motion, explosive power, and cutting and pivoting maneuvers even if he has returned to play. Often athletes continue to improve for several months even though they have already returned to the court. The team's medical staff must watch for signs of a problem, such as a recurrence of swelling, an increase in knee pain or a catching or locking sensation in the knee with activities.
Many thanks once again to Dr. Geier. He can be reached at the following: