A doctor weighs in on DeJuan Blair and Austin Daye’s medical histories


A lot of people, myself included, wondered why the Pistons didn’t take DeJuan Blair. And then why they passed on him again.

Dr. Ben Wedro, who runs MD Direct, was kind enough to evaluate his injury for me.

Some background from Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop:

In high school, Blair tore both of his ACLs and had them surgically repaired. Blair’s scar tissue essentially got re-absorbed by his body and the result left Blair with essentially no ACLs.

Although he’s suffered no adverse effects ever since, Blair’s is an unprecedented injury and one that scared off a slew of NBA executives. Though Blair literally has no ACL to tear, some team physicians feel that Blair could eventually develop a nagging issue that could wear him down a few years down the road.

Here’s Dr. Wedro’s assessment:

The ACL’s job is to be one of the knee stabilizers in the anterior-posterior direction, that is preventing the tibia or shin bone from sliding frontwards or backwards in relation to the femur or thigh bone. This is especially important in quick stops and starts. If there is no ACL, then the quadricpes and hamstring muscles need to take over the stabilization role. Good knee stability should be able to be maintained as long as the quads and hams remain strong and in balance.

There are examples of pro athletes who have played with absent ACLs including Philip Rivers in a playoff game for the Chargers. Marty Barrett played with the Red Sox without an ACL and I presume that there are many atheltes who did not know of the injury or chose not to disclose it for fear of cutting their career short.

That sounds manageable to me. With Arnie Kander monitoring Blair, I think he could keep his quads and hams strong and balanced.

I also asked Dr. Wedro about Austin Daye’s medical history. Some background from Andy Katz of ESPN:

Daye was told by doctors at UCLA that he has a bone bruise and a minor, low-grade tear that won’t require surgery. Instead, Daye and his parents Darren and Tamara said Thursday that he simply needs to rest the next three weeks.

Over the weekend, the first reading of an MRI produced a diagnosis that he had a torn ACL, would need surgery and could be gone for six to 12 months. The injury, which was first believed to be a tendon injury in his hamstring, occurred during drills at the Nike LeBron James Skills Academy on July 8 in Akron, Ohio.

Daye was told Thursday that he shouldn’t have any problem playing for the Zags next season after strengthening his right knee this summer.

Reports said he was slower through the first half of last season, which would be about through December. Daye also did very poorly at the NBA combine last month (testing last or near-last for his vertical, agility, strength and sprint), but there are no reports linking that performance to his injury.

Dr. Wedro’s assessment:

If I understand the situation, Daye hurt his knee and the initial diagnosis was a hamstring tendon injury (where the tendon inserts behind the knee into the tibia). Subsequently, he had an MRI and the initial reading was that of an ACL tear. A second opinion of the MRI was obtained and there was disagreement with the torn ACL diagnosis. Instead, the “new” diagnosis is that of a bone bruise and minor tear, I presume of the ACL, that will heal on its own.

If the second diagnosis is correct, that is there is not a complete tear of the ACL, then the knee should heal completely and not physically limit Daye. There is always the emotional concern when an elite athlete questions his body’s ability to perform to a high level without question. Playing through pain is a difficult concept and often the body attempts to protect the injured area by causing the muscles around the injury to go into spasm. This may potentially limit flexibility and power and affect performance.

I guess it’s comforting knowing we shouldn’t really worry about Daye’s injury going forward.

Tags: Austin Daye