Joel Embiid's Back Injury Should Not Keep Him From Going No. 1 in the NBA Draft

June 18, 2014

Must See Basketball Videos

Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid has the size, talent and upside to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in next week’s NBA Draft. He has looked great in workouts, moving extremely well for a 7-footer.

Still, some draft analysts are concerned about Embiid’s ability to perform in the NBA due to a recent back injury. In February, Embiid suffered a lumbar stress fracture known as spondylolysis. Although recent reports say his back is doing great, worries persist about drafting a center with injury concerns No. 1 overall.

Since Tim Duncan was chosen first overall in 1997, the following centers have been selected with the first overall pick: Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Oden and Anthony Davis. All of these players have suffered injuries, including hernias, knee surgeries, back surgeries, chronic foot pain and foot surgeries. Although some of them have been productive despite their injuries, a center chosen with the top pick has been a 50/50 proposition at best in recent years.

RELATED: How You Can Jump as High as Andrew Wiggins

Can Embiid be productive in the NBA? How serious is his injury?

On Philly.com, Dr. Robert Senior wrote, "Spondylolysis is the most common lower-back injury associated with overuse in sports and is especially common in growing adolescents and teens. While Embiid recently turned 20, his tremendous height and status as a relative newcomer to the sport of basketball (he first played competitively in 2011) would suggest a higher risk for such an injury."

Embiid is not the first big man to suffer a lumbar stress fracture. While he was in college, Emeka Okafor missed two Big East tournament games with a lower-back stress fracture before leading UConn to a national championship. Okofar then saw specialist Dr. Andrew Dossett and, according to a March 2004 ESPN story, "Dr. Dossett told Emeka that he finds this problem in hundreds of elite athletes, and they're still playing. What happens is the stress fracture is on a tiny little part of the bone, and then the extra motion triggers muscle around it to go into pain and then a spasm, and that's when you see Emeka's face wince. He told him it's not a long-term problem."

Selected second in the 2004 Draft behind Dwight Howard, Okofar has averaged 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in nine NBA seasons.

When basketball players get diagnosed with spondylolysis, they must rest until they recover fully. If they resume activity too soon, they risk developing spondylolisthesis, which is a worsening of the fracture to the point that one vertebra slips forward, creating a gradual worsening of leg pain, weakness, neurological changes and the possibility of career-ending surgery.

RELATED: Athlete's Guide to Back Injury Rehabilitation

Between his injury in early February and the NBA Draft in late June, Embiid has been fortunate to have enough time to heal, restore strength and gain weight. If he has healed completely, the long-term effects of his injury should be non-existent. Re-injury is extremely uncommon when an athlete has no underlying cause for bone loss or fracture.

Embiid has only been playing basketball competitively for three years. He has demonstrated an ability to quickly pick up the game and dominate both ends of the floor. Even with this injury, it would appear that his best years are ahead of him.

Topics: BASKETBALL | NEWS
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Mo Skelton
- Mo Skelton is a physical therapist at McCurtain Memorial Hospital (Idabel, Okla.) and is the founder of F.A.S.T. Sports Performance. He also serves as...
Must See
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 20,091,357
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 4,322,363
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,678

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 3,167
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 1: Introducing the Players Views: 19,245
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Intro to Complexes Views: 61,461
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,488
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,633
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,559,605
How Greg Nixon Converts Strength to Speed
Views: 960,874
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,329,250

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

How to Train With Running Blisters

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

Megan Rapinoe

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles