The NBA MVP has injured his knee… so what does this mean?

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Steph Curry, sprained his MCL 4/25/16 during game 4 of the Warriors’ opening round series against the Houston Rockets. After an MRI and further evaluation to his right knee, the Golden State Sports Medicine team was able to diagnose Steph with a Grade 1 MCL Sprain.

What is the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)

The MCL is one of the stabilizing ligaments of the knee located on the medial side (inside) of the knee.

What is a MCL Sprain

A MCL sprain generally occurs acutely with a direct blow to the outside of the knee (valgus force), but also may be injured through a non contact force of a planting and twisting motion causing a torque force to the knee.

MCL sprains are most commonly seen in contact and non contact sports such as basketball. In Curry’s case, his MCL injury was non contact in which he slipped on a wet spot on the court.

As with any other sprain, a MCL injury is the result of excessive stretching or tearing of the ligament. The severity of the injury can range from a slight stretching (Grade 1) to a complete rupture of the ligament (Grade 3).

Grades & Healing time

  • Grade 1 tear: a small number of fibers are torn resulting in some pain but allowing full function
  • Grade 2 tear: a significant number of fibers are torn with moderate loss of function.
  • Grade 3 tear: all fibers are ruptured resulting in knee instability and major loss of function. Other structures may also be injured such as the menisci or cruciate ligaments.

Treatment

In the initial stage of all three levels of injury medication prescribed by a doctor for pain relief should be taken if necessary. The PRICE protocol should be followed – Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation

In Steph Curry’s case, his treatment and healing time has been expedited due to the NBA Playoffs and high level of athleticism. Since Steph, only has a Grade 1 MCL Sprain, the following are standard treatments for proper healing and return to activity:

Grade 1

Standard treatment includes:

  1. Prompt return to weight-bearing
  2. Activities to encourage full motion
  3. Ice
  4. Safe strengthening activities, such as biking, that avoid cutting and twisting
  5. Optional anti-inflammatory medication for one week
  6. Bracing with a brace to support the MCL

Grade 1 MCL Precautions

  1. Avoid prolonged immobility.
  2. Do not return to sports until motion is normal and at least 90% of normal strength is recovered.

Stephen Curry was quoted on his chances of playing in Game 3: ‘To me, they’re pretty good.’ We will see if Curry returns to play for Saturdays game, if not for game 3 we will definitely be seeing the MVP back in action for Game 4.

 

Jessica M. Thomas MS, ATC, CHC

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