What is a sprained knee, Joel Embiid’s injury?

Sixers center Joel Embiid limps during the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets during Game 3 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Thursday, April 20, 2023 in New York.

The Sixers easily swept the Brooklyn Nets without their biggest star on Saturday — but team officials have offered few details about the sprained knee. Joel Embiid out of Game 4.

Embiid sprained his right knee in the Sixers’ Game 3 win over the Nets last Thursday. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said over the weekend that Embiid has a 50-50 chance of returning to play on April 29, the first game of the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Here’s what to know about the knee sprain, how to treat it and what Embiid’s trainers are thinking about as he prepares to return to the court.

What is a knee sprain?

A knee sprain occurs when the ligaments in the knee are overstretched, said Ryan Baer, ​​a sports physical therapist and founder of FLASH Momentum, a West Chester physical therapy practice.

But there are few details that have been released about Embiid’s exact injury, and it’s not clear which structures in his knee were affected, said Alyssa Marulli, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Jefferson Health’s Mosarihab and Einstein Spine Institute. Neither Bear nor Maruli are involved in Embiid’s care.

After Game 3, Embiid reported swelling and pain in his right knee and underwent an MRI, which revealed a sprain, team officials said.

“They note that he has swelling in his knee joint, which means it’s something intra-articular: inside the knee joint,” rather than the surrounding muscles or tendons, Maruli said.

The Sixers also did not specify whether Embiid tore the ligament or simply pulled it. A ligament tear will be more severe and take longer to recover from, Baer said.

How do you sprain the knee?

A knee sprain occurs when the knee bends too much or sustains a direct impact, such as during a fall.

Basketball players sometimes sprain their knees after landing awkwardly after a jump — twisting the knee coming down from a jump or landing on a hyper-extended knee, Marulli said.

“Balance exercises are really important, especially in basketball — sometimes you land on one leg, and you have to keep the balance,” Baer said.

Knee sprains are common among athletes but can happen to anyone.

How is a sprained knee treated?

Ice and compression help reduce swelling.

Trainers who work with professional athletes may use cryotherapy, a treatment that uses extreme cold, or administer anti-inflammatory drugs, Maruli said.

“Especially in light of where we are in the postseason, you definitely want to get that swelling down,” Marulli said.

As he recovers, Embiid will likely work with his trainers on balance exercises, strengthening his quads and hamstrings, Baer said. Single-leg exercises and plyometrics, or exercises that involve jumping, can help athletes maintain strength and better control the muscles that support the knee joint, Marulli said.

For his clients, Bayer uses single-leg deadlifts, where the patient balances on one leg and hinges from the hip to lower and raise the weight, to help better control the muscles around the knee.

How quickly can someone recover from a sprained knee?

Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the sprain and which of the four major ligaments around the knee were injured.

Sprains often take weeks to months to heal, but Embiid’s recovery will look a little different than the average person’s. Preparing to play in a basketball game a week after a knee sprain is “a little faster than what most people would do,” Baer said. “[The Sixers’ trainers] Doing more for him than anyone else gets.”

Barr said Saturday’s return seemed “possible” for Embiid, although he has not regained full strength.

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