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Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has torn the medial meniscus in his right knee. The injury, suffered in a disastrous third quarter for Chicago in their eventual loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, is not as bad as the suspected ACL tear that many presumed Rose to have sustained, but the Bulls are relaying that he’ll be out for an “indefinite” amount of time per press release.
Rose, who returned to NBA action last month 18 months after tearing the ACL in his left knee during a 2012 playoff game, had struggled to begin the 2013-14 season. The 2011 NBA MVP’s game appeared to be as strong as he was prior to the ligament tear, but he also seemed deliberate and rehearsed in the 10 games he played with Chicago, averaging 15.9 points (on just 35 percent shooting) and 4.3 assists a contest in 31.1 minutes a game, with 3.4 turnovers a night to his discredit.
On Friday, though, Rose looked renewed. Though he missed 11 of 16 shots, Rose scored 17 points in the game’s first half while pushing the ball and looking comfortable while improvising as Chicago raced out to a 15-point halftime lead. Chicago’s rhythm was disrupted in the second half, though, as Portland returned to take the lead and eventual win, and Rose left the game at the 3:20 mark of the third quarter after a transition foray gone wrong.
Rose left the game on crutches, declaring to his coach Tom Thibodeau that he couldn’t put weight on the knee, leading many to fear that he’d torn the ACL in his non-surgically reconstructed knee. A medial meniscus tear isn’t great news, but it’s certainly far better than an ACL tear – something that would have likely ended Rose’s season while turning the entire Chicago Bulls franchise on its ear.
Rose will need surgery, but the injury is not unlike the one suffered by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook during last year’s playoffs. Westbrook tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee and later needed cleanup surgery, but he appears no worse for wear during his particular comeback. Chicago won’t know if Rose will be out for the season until the surgery is performed, but there is a sound chance he could return this season.
We identified 129 isolated meniscal tears in NBA athletes during a 21-season span. From this number, 77 (59.7%) involved the lateral meniscus and 52 (40.3%) the medial meniscus. Injuries occurred more frequently in games. The lateral meniscus had a statistically significant higher injury rate. Both left and right knees were equally affected. The number of days missed for lateral meniscal tears and medial meniscal tears was 43.8 ± 35.7 days and 40.9 ± 29.7 days, respectively, and was not statistically different.
For Bulls fans, 41 to 70 days sounds like an absolute picnic after Rose’s 18-month absence, or the possible setback that would have been a right ACL tear. Still, with the surgery as yet unperformed, one has no way of knowing if Rose is long for the season. And the dominoes that could fall within the Bulls franchise – from teammates to front office to coach staff to eventual transactions – could create further chaos.
On top of that, rushing back a return from meniscus surgery could leave Rose prone to perpetual knee soreness for the rest of his career, and possible career-altering microfracture surgery. Such setbacks don't usually result from ACL tears.
As such, we await the outcome of the surgery, which will be performed in Chicago. Derrick Rose hasn’t torn another ACL, but he and his anxious team are not out of the woods yet.
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