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How much do ‘injury timelines’ matter? Let me let you in on a little secret

Let's take a closer look at “injury return timelines” and if they actually matter.

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Your phone buzzes in your pocket, a bead of sweat trickles down your brow as you see a Twitter notification appear on your phone.

“Oh my god, it’s rizz god Shams Charania!”

The trickle turns into a flow of perspiration.

“LeBron James will be re-evaluated in...”

Now there’s a bonafide river with tributaries flowing down the bridge of your nose and onto your cheeks, the Nile stares at you in awe.

“....two weeks.”

Ah yes, the tried and true “injury return timeline”. Something that Laker fans have become all too accustomed to over the past few years, most recently with LeBron James’ right foot injury vs. the Dallas Mavericks and D’Angelo Russell’s ankle injury vs. the Golden State Warriors.

However, do these timelines actually matter to those who are doing the treatment (the medical staff, including the physios and trainers) or is it simply more to appease fans, the media and/or bettors? Are these timelines reliable and consistent? If not, what are more reliable indicators to look for during the rehab and return processes?

I dove into those questions and more in the following video.

Yes, there is decent sport-specific data on when players will return from certain injuries, but there are so many variables that we cannot account for, let alone the fact that most of these timelines are “averages,” so you’re going to have players who are come back earlier or come back later — and then you have situations like LeBron who hurt that right foot in January but decided to play through, so does that mean his return timeline was 0 days for that? It’s not the best science. And that’s all without mentioning that a timeline to be reevaluated is not the same as an estimated return date.

I understand why it’s easy to fall into the constant trap of timelines — especially since they’re constantly parroted on social media (it gets clicks, trust me I know) — but hopefully now you can avoid that pitfall by looking at some of the more objective indicators outlined in the video.

Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own in-person and online sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA and partners with Quantum Performance in which he further combines his movement expertise and fitness training background to rehab & train elite athletes. 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 over 5 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), has a background in youth basketball coaching and analyzes the Lakers from a medical and skills perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and on his own YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @3cbPerformance.

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