Athlete Injuries: Stephen Curry's Knee Sprain

This post is part of our ongoing series to educate fans about the injuries to their favorite athletes and when they might expect them to return to play. If you have questions about your sports injury, call us at 201-962-9199 or learn more about our Sports Medicine or Sports Rehabilitation services.

NBA Point Guard Stephen Curry’s Knee Sprain Injury

Any time the reigning MVP (and likely 2016 MVP) suffers multiple injuries in the first round of the playoffs, there is going to be concern. How much should we worry about Steph Curry’s knee sprain?

WHAT IS A KNEE SPRAIN?

Deciphering media reports is often the most difficult part of determining what actually happened to an athlete and when you can expect them to return. A “knee sprain” can mean a lot of different things and recovery time varies immensely. Simply put, a sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is a band of tissue that connects two bones together. This differs from a strain, which is an injury to a muscle or the part of the muscle that connects to a bone, the tendon.

Specifically in the knee, there are 4 ligaments that can be sprained, the anterior cruciate (ACL), the posterior cruciate (PCL), the medial collateral (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligaments (LCL). The ACL and PCL are ligaments deep within the knee that prevent the thigh bone and the lower leg bone from sliding forward and backward. The MCL is on the inside portion of the knee, while the LCL is on the outside.

The MCL is the most commonly injured ligament of the knee and is usually damaged by a blow to the outer part of the knee causing the knee to move inward.

Aside from knowing which ligament is involved, the grade of the sprain is a critical piece of information. The media often doesn’t understand this and we rarely get all of the necessary information. If they presented an injury as a grade 2 sprain, you would be less concerned than if they said the athlete had a partial tear of his MCL, right? Well, it’s the same thing. Here is the grading system:

Grade 1 – The ligament is mildly damaged after being stretched more than it should be. There are no tears and the knee joint remains stable.
Grade 2 – The ligament is stretched further resulting in partial tearing of the tissue.
Grade 3 – This is a complete tear of the ligament. Obviously, the worst case scenario with instability of the knee.

Fortunately, for Steph, we’ve been told he has a grade 1 strain of his MCL and that he’ll be reevaluated in 2 weeks. Generally, that is a fair timetable for an elite athlete to return to play following a grade 1 MCL strain. The complicating factor in this situation is the status of his right ankle. Steph seemed to be moving well before his knee injury, so an additional 2 weeks of rest should allow his ankle to fully heal. If, however, he has any lingering ankle or knee pain when he returns, he is at higher risk for another soft tissue injury if he has to change the way he runs or jumps.

The bottom line is that assuming the Warriors can finish off the Rockets, Steph should return early in the next round of the playoffs.

At Progressive Spine and Sports Medicine, we specialize in Physical Therapy and nonsurgical pain management, and a sprained knee is just one of the many injuries we diagnose and treat in our Ramsey, NJ medical center. For more information, please see our full list of our nonsurgical services, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today.

We look forward to being your #1 solution for nonsurgical pain treatment.

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