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Explaining Avery Bradley’s leg injury

I took a deeper look into the “right leg fibular head hairline fracture” suffered by Lakers guard Avery Bradley.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers guard Avery Bradley has been diagnosed with a “hairline fracture of the fibular head on his right leg” that came up on a pre-cautionary MRI after Bradley continued to complain of persistent discomfort and tenderness stemming from the injury he suffered during the game against the San Antonio Spurs Nov. 3. Bradley was kicked in the right knee area by Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and subsequently missed one game with a “leg contusion” before returning, and then having the subsequent MRI that the Lakers say will lead to Bradley missing at least a week or two.

In the following video I put together for the “Laker Film Room” YouTube Channel, I put together a primer on the injury, and detailed if there’s anything to worry about for Bradley moving forward:

Now, let’s go through some of the most frequently asked questions in the wake of this injury?

What’s a fibular head hairline fracture?

The fibula is the lateral (outside) bone on the lower leg The bone begins near the knee at the fibular head, and ends at the lateral malleolus, aka the knob on the outside of the ankle.

avery bradley injury
The right fibula
3CB Performance

In Bradley’s case, he sustained a “hairline fracture” of the fibula near the knee, which means he has a very slight fracture of the bone.

How bad is that?

It’s a relatively mild injury for two main reasons:

  1. A hairline fracture is a slight crack in the bone rather than an overt larger crack in the bone, the latter of which can take up to six to eight weeks to heal, depending on location. In fact, a hairline fracture is considered the second mildest type of fracture (on a scale of four), with only a “bone bruise” being lesser on that scale.
  2. The fibula only bears roughly 17% of body-weight as compared to the tibia (shin bone) which bears the rest. I’ll let you do the math. That low level of weight-bearing is why Bradley was able to play through the injury in the first place, and play quite well. His third quarter vs the Suns on Nov. 2 was arguably his best quarter of the young season, and he managed it with this injury. That doesn’t mean he should keep playing and risk further injury, but it demonstrates that this is much more minor than one might think when they hear the word “fracture.”

When will Bradley be back?

The medical team has set a re-evaluation date of “1 to 2 weeks,” and the specific date will be symptom dependent. If Bradley’s discomfort and tenderness go away relatively quickly, it will likely be closer to the one week mark, whereas if symptoms persist, the re-evaluation will probably be closer to the two week mark.

If everything checks out at that point, he’ll be cleared for the return to play protocol and begin to gradually ramp up activity. I obviously haven’t observed or examined Bradley’s injury myself, but based on the mild severity of the injury and research on return to play timelines after a fibular head hairline fracture, my educated guess is that he’ll be back in three weeks, maximum.

Dr. Rajpal Brar has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 1.5 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), and analyzes the Lakers from a medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and Laker Film Room.

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