Jordan Bell going down with injury at the start of the Warriors-Bulls matchup in Chicago on Wednesday sent shock waves of concern through the team which had benefited so much from Bell’s contributions this season.
Injury aside, the team and fans remain inspired by his potential and are eager for his return to play action.
A player being removed from the court by wheelchair is never an assuring sign but, thankfully, Bell’s injury turned out to be less severe than originally feared. X-rays taken after Bell left the game on Wednesday came back negative, and an MRI from the following day revealed “nothing glaring,” according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
Kerr revealed that the MRI done on Thursday showed the injury “doesn’t appear to be anything more than a bone bruise.”
On Friday, however, San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau referred to the injury as “an inflamed left ankle.” Whether the inflammation is a symptom of the bone bruise or there has been a revision to the original diagnosis is unclear.
Either way, whew! A sigh of relief for Dub Nation.
But perhaps any relief should be tempered with the reality that bone bruises (if that is what we’re dealing with here) can be “tricky to heal,” according to Kerr. So, let’s examine what a bone bruise actually is and how one of Bell’s superstar teammates recovered from one last season.
What is a bone bruise?
Although “less severe than a bone fracture,” a bone bruise is still considered “a traumatic injury” to the bone. According to University of Rochester Medical Center, “[d]eep inside the bone is an area called the medulla ... [which] contains bone marrow and fibrous tissue called trabeculae.”
“With a bone fracture, all of the trabeculae in a region of bone have broken. But with a bone bruise, an injury only damages some of these trabeculae. An injury might cause blood to build up in the area beneath the periosteum ... An injury might also cause bleeding and swelling in the area between your cartilage and the bone beneath it ... Or bleeding and swelling can happen in the medulla of your bone.”
The type of bone bruise Bell is dealing with has not yet been disclosed. But the deeper the injury goes into the regions of the bone — down through all the layers, into the medulla, for example — the longer the recovery time may be.
Coach Kerr was spot-on in calling bone bruises “tricky,” considering the job requirements of a professional basketball player. When Kevin Durant injured his left knee last season during an on-court collision with Zaza Pachulia, the Grade 2 MCL sprain was considered less significant than the bone bruise to his tibia.
ESPN’s Stephania Bell reported at the time that “[t]he more significant component, however, may be the bone bruise” because the injury is known to be excruciatingly painful and must be “protected from excessive loading to allow it to completely heal.”
Although Durant’s injury was to his knee, the same concerns about pain management and the necessity to ease into weight-bearing activities in the recovery process apply to Jordan Bell’s ankle as well.
What is Bell’s timeline for recovery?
The University of Rochester Medical Center puts recovery time for bone bruises at a few months, stating specifically that most injuries of this type “slowly heal over one to two months,” and that “[a] larger bone bruise may take longer to heal” — making it impossible for the injured person to return to athletic endeavors quickly.
With that said, a study by Jacqueline Yewande Thompson in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders cites a lack of evidence and inconsistencies in the study of factors that determine prognoses and recovery times for these types of injuries.
And it appears this author is onto something.
On Friday, Bell was given a much quicker healing prognosis of “at least two weeks.” During a practice session in Chicago, Kerr said, “He’s a young guy who heals quickly, so hopefully this is best case scenario.”
One thing the medical community can agree upon is that Jordan Bell must stay off the leg.
“Protection means not fully weight bearing early on in the recovery process, then gradually introducing increased weight bearing when walking, and eventually transitioning to two-legged jumping and landing,” ESPN’s Stephania Bell stated of Durant’s injury during the 2017-18 season. “The final phase is being able to land on one leg and absorb full weight, something that could exceed a month, depending on Durant’s ability to heal.”
It is doubtful that the team will provide information on the intricacies of Bell’s treatment plan, but the University of Rochester Medical Center states that treatment can include:
- Resting the bone or joint
- Applying ice to the area several times a day
- Raising the injury above the level of your heart to reduce swelling
- Taking medicine to reduce pain and swelling
- Wearing a brace or other device to limit movement, if needed
Additionally, there may be some dietary recommendations at play, given that a diet “rich in calcium, vitamin D, and protein” can support bone healing. So, let’s hope Klay Thompson will keep Bell supplied with chocolate milk to foster his recovery and swift return to the court.
Bell is expected to be re-evaluated by team doctors on Feb. 2, which means he will miss at least five games.
UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. PST to include length of time Bell is expected to miss, possible revision of diagnosis, and date of re-evaluation by team doctors.