What's the recovery timeline for Bucks star Khris Middleton after his MCL sprain?

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The knee injury that took Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton out of Wednesday's playoff game could be worse than initially thought.

An initial exam revealed a sprain of Middleton's medial collateral ligament, or MCL, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said Wednesday night.

We spoke with Mark Wichman, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Advocate Aurora Health, to see what the recovery might look like.

Is it just an MCL sprain, or did Middleton's ACL tear as well?

As Middleton slipped and fell to the floor during Game 2, his left knee twisted, which could have damaged additional ligaments, Wichman said.

"I would be surprised if it was an isolated medial collateral ligament injury, based on what I saw," he said.

Wichman, who is head team physician for the Milwaukee Admirals, said the rotation of Middleton's knee meant it's possible the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tore as well.

The MCL is a ligament on the inner side of the knee. It keeps the knee stable during movements that would flex the joint inward.

During the game, it appears that Middleton planted his left leg to spin away from Chicago guard Alex Caruso, but his foot slipped out from under him and he fell to the ground.

"It was a bizarre circumstance that unfortunately is all too common in sports where the athlete doesn't see it coming," Wichman said. "He thought his leg was going to be there for him and it wasn't."

Recovery time for an MCL sprain is days or weeks

The length of time it would take for the MCL sprain all depends on the severity of Middleton's injury.

Middleton will undergo an MRI Thursday, which will give team physicians a better understanding of the injury.

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It could be classified Grade 1, 2 or 3. Grade 1, the least severe, means a player could return to play after just five to seven days, Wichman said.

Grade 2, in which the ligament tear is deeper and the joint is more unstable, could mean four to six weeks of recovery.

Grade 3, the most severe, could mean the player requires surgery. The player would be out longer than six weeks, Wichman said.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) drives past Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso (6) during the first half of their game Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) drives past Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso (6) during the first half of their game Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis.

Based on footage of the injury from the game broadcast and the fact that many players who tear their MCLs also tear nearby ligaments, Wichman believes Middleton's injury could have a longer recovery time.

The term "sprain" does imply that the ligament is torn, Wichman said. The question is, how many layers of fibers are torn, and how far apart the fibers tore from one another.

Wichman also noted that injury recovery can vary from player to player.

When Giannis Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee during the Eastern Conference finals last summer, he made a quick comeback.

Wichman hopes for the best for Middleton: a low-grade injury in which he's back in the lineup in days or weeks.

"This is the first round of the playoffs. Anything could happen," he said.

Contact Sophie Carson at (414) 223-5512 or scarson@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SCarson_News.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: What is Khris Middleton's MCL injury recovery timeline?