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Clippers' Blake Griffin could be back sooner, according to doctor

Clippers' Blake Griffin could be back sooner, according to doctor
Clippers power forward Blake Griffin throws down a dunk over Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo during a game on Dec. 16. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Dr. Keith Feder has some good news and bad news about Blake Griffin's fractured hand.

On the plus side, the kind of break Griffin has is a simple and common injury.

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"It's pretty straightforward," said Feder, a surgeon at the West Coast Orthopedic Center in Manhattan Beach.  "Once it's healed, it's usually not a problem going forward."

The bad news is that healing can take up to six weeks. And there's not much that can be done to speed that up.

"You could use a bone stimulator. But in the early area after a fracture, usually they don't have a lot of effect to speed up the healing…. There's no magic bullet, unfortunately," said Feder, who was speaking in generalities since he has not examined Griffin.

According to the Clippers, Griffin hurt his right hand when he punched assistant equipment manager Matias Testi outside a restaurant in Toronto on Saturday. X-rays taken Monday in Los Angeles found a spiral fracture of the fourth metacarpal and a day later Dr. Steve Shin performed an undefined procedure to stabilize the break and speed Griffin's recovery.

The forward, the Clippers' leading scorer at 23.2 points per game, has already missed a month because of a quadriceps tendon injury. He is expected to need another four to six weeks for his hand to heal.

However Dr. Alidad Ghiassi, an orthopedic surgeon and hand specialist at Keck Medicine of USC, said he believes Griffin could be back sooner.

"The metacarpal heals very quickly," said Ghiassi, who, like Feder, had no firsthand knowledge of Griffin's condition.

Ghiassi said studies in Australia indicate that athletes in ballhandling sports such as basketball respond well to the type of treatment Griffin has received.

"If you're going to pick something, a spiral fracture, that's something good to pick," he said. "Once you get into dislocations and fracture-dislocations, where the joints are dislocated, it can tougher. But a spiral fracture of the fourth metacarpal is a pretty benign condition overall."

Dr. Richard Ferkel, an orthopedic surgeon in Van Nuys, said Griffin may have to alter his style of play slightly -- at least in the initial days of his return.

"The big problem for him is not only is he out, but it's his shooting hand," Ferkel said. "It's much harder to grip the ball and to develop a feel for the release of the ball off your fingertips as you're trying to recover from that injury."

Slam dunks pose an even bigger danger for Griffin, who is averaging better than a dunk per game.

"When you slam sometimes your hand will hit the rim a little bit. You don't want to rebreak the fracture and refracture your hand," Ferkel said. "Even though bones can heal in four to six weeks, that doesn't mean it's 100%.

"Most athletes try to get back a little quicker, so they're a little on the edge. If they just do the wrong thing it could, perhaps, get reinjured."

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To combat that and to improve his grip, Griffin is almost certain to do hand-strengthening exercises as part of his rehab. After that, it's up to Mother Nature.

"There's actually very little that could go wrong with healing that bone," Feder said. "It's very, very rare that they don't heal."

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