A renowned doctor said Monday the injury that sidelined Blake Griffin for more than three months was probably an uncommon form of chronic tendinitis that results from running up the court and jumping for rebounds and dunks.
Sadly for those like the Clippers power forward who suffer from a partially torn quadriceps tendon, the root of the injury can also prevent it from healing.
"The activity that caused it, is unfortunately the way he makes his living," said T.O. Souryal, former president of the NBA Physicians Assn. and a Dallas Mavericks team doctor for more than 22 years.
FOR THE RECORD:
Clippers: In the April 12 Sports section, a headline on an article about Blake Griffin's injury described Dr. T.O. Souryal as working for the Dallas Mavericks. Souryal is a former team doctor with the Mavericks. —
Griffin has played four games since a 45-game absence, but his left quadriceps tendon remains partially torn long after it caused him to stop playing on Christmas. Souryal, who has not examined Griffin, said he suspected the presence of Griffin's tendinitis preceded the injury it created.
Griffin said the quadriceps started bothering him in early December, but he played a few more weeks before the pain became too strong.
"What happens with these chronic tendinitis pictures is that they cross a threshold where they become symptomatic and develop a partial tear," Souryal said. "In many cases, this is something that has been brewing for a long time."
The symptoms of a partially torn quadriceps tendon include pain, weakness and can result in a reduction in quickness and a lack of explosiveness for even world-class athletes.
Griffin's first basket in his first game back, April 3 against Washington, came on an alley-oop dunk, but he hasn't spent much time above the rim since then. Griffin has dunked once more in the four games since his return, with the balance of his baskets coming on layups, jumpers and hook shots.
Souryal said he believed the chances of Griffin aggravating his injury were likely minimal because if it was more than a slight tear, he wouldn't be playing.
"Reading between the lines, knowing the Clippers have a huge investment in Blake Griffin and they have a top-notch medical staff, I suspect that there's not a great risk to be had here," Souryal said. "If there was a great risk, he wouldn't be out there.
"A lay person will say, how come this has not healed by now? These things are really hard to heal and unpredictable. As long as the symptoms are manageable and he is able to compete at a high level, I'm really not surprised that there's still a partial tear."
Souryal said Griffin's return indicates that the Clippers' doctors were satisfied his symptoms had improved substantially and was encouraged by Griffin's production Sunday against the Mavericks, when he had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Getting Griffin's quadriceps back to 100% could involve a handful of options, Souryal said. Griffin could undergo platelet-rich plasma therapy, have surgery or rest for an extended period, with the final two options likely imperiling his bid to play in the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is a procedure in which a small amount of blood is drawn from the affected area, spun in a centrifuge and re-injected into the body after concentrated platelets are isolated. Lakers star Kobe Bryant is among the many NBA players who have undergone similar treatments in recent years.
"If he ends up having something surgical, then this issue is behind him," Souryal said. "If they end up doing PRP, which is platelet-rich plasma, often that will help heal things that have a relatively poor blood supply to begin with. So is it something that's going to plague him for the rest of his career? I think the best answer is not necessarily."
CLIPPERS VS. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. PDT.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime, TNT; Radio: 570.
Records: Grizzlies 42-38; Clippers 52-28.
Record vs. Grizzlies: 1-1.
Update: Injury-ravaged Memphis could still be the Clippers' opponent in the first round of the playoffs even after losing eight of its last nine games. The Grizzlies trail Portland by half a game for fifth place in the Western Conference standings but have a much tougher remaining schedule, with games against the Clippers and Golden State. The Warriors will have plenty of incentive to beat Memphis because the victory would allow them to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins in the regular season. Portland's last game comes Wednesday at home against lottery-bound Denver.