PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The Philadelphia 76ers announced Thursday that guard/forward Ben Simmons is out after an MRI showed a subluxation of the patella in his left knee. The team said in its statement that “treatment options are currently being considered and further updates will be provided as appropriate.”
That language can sound ominous, particularly for Sixers fans who have seen their star players lost to injury several times over the last few years. With the team in the Orlando bubble and set to begin the playoff push in a little over a week, the question of when or if Simmons could return looms.
The first question on fans minds, even those who have been following the injury-riddled Sixers through the years, is likely, what is a patella subluxation? As Dr. Brian Sennett, the Chief of Sports Medicine at Penn Medicine describes, a subluxation is basically a partial dislocation of the knee cap and therefore, usually less severe.
“A subluxation is different from a dislocation in the sense that the knee cap does not go as far as you would see in a dislocation. It goes part way, but it never goes all the way. As a result, you often do not have the injury that you do with the dislocation and many of the times, you stretch the ligament but do not tear it,” said Sennett. “The bone bruises that you typically get with a dislocation, if they are even present, are a much lower magnitude. A patella subluxation is much less of an injury than a dislocation. A dislocation you’re often going to be out for about six weeks. A patella subluxation, you’re probably more in the range of 2-4 weeks.”
That’s good news, but not exactly great news for fans hoping the Sixers can make a title run. Two weeks would bring Simmons back in time for the early part of the team’s first-round series. On the longer side, four weeks would put him out through likely the first round and into the second, if the team were to make it that far.
However, Dr. Sennett points to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ injury last year as a good point of comparison. Mahomes suffered a fully dislocated knee cap in Week 7. Normal recovery time, six weeks. But, Mahomes was able to return just three weeks later in Week 10 and then went on to win a Super Bowl.
Now, Mahomes’ own physiology played a part in that recovery. The timeline can vary depending on the athlete. Treatment for a subluxation, according to Dr. Sennett, is non-operative.
“It typically is rehabilitation and surgery would only be indicated if it was a recurrent problem. Rehabilitation, regaining motion, regaining strength, controlling swelling and controlling pain with a return to athletics as soon as the athlete is comfortable and regained motion and strength,” said Dr. Sennett. “Then when come back you’re typically treated with taping by the athletic trainer or with the use of a knee brace.”
The Sixers stated that they are discussing treatment options with Simmons, and, of course, it will depend on when he feels comfortable, having regained the motion and strength in his knee. But, it remains possible that he could return to have an impact on the team’s playoff run. Dr. Sennett does point out that once an athlete sustains this injury once, it is more likely to recur at some point. So, at the end of the season, he says, you will see some athletes decide to have surgery in order to lessen the likelihood of a recurrence.
It remains to be seen how the Sixers and Simmons will handle the injury, but there is a high likelihood that he will be able to return to his previous level of performance.
For now, the Sixers prepare for Thursday’s matchup against the Orlando Magic with tip-off set for 6:30 p.m.