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...

Featured Videos

Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Tim Tebow's NFL Off-Season Workout Views: 152,830
Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Path to the Pros 2015: Trae Waynes Views: 80,325
Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,268,862
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

Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,536,765
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 12,144,153
Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout Colin Kaepernick's Core Workout
Views: 896,437
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,240
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,332

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

If you have ever had tightness or sourness in your glutes that may or may not have radiated into your hamstrings, you might have suffered from...

Megan Rapinoe’s Secret to Staying Healthy

Megan Rapinoe's Secret to Staying Healthy

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

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

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries

How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries

How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

Avoid ACL Injuries in Softball with PREP

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

How to Prevent In-Season Volleyball Injuries

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

How to Train With Running Blisters

How to Train With Running Blisters

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

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

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

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

What’s With the Stethoscope? Heart Murmurs in Athletes

What's With the Stethoscope? Heart Murmurs in Athletes

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

4 Tips to Relieve Muscle Stiffness

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

Why Tommy John Surgery Is Ruining Pitchers

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Fix 3 Common Ankle Problems to Prevent Injury

Fix 3 Common Ankle Problems to Prevent Injury

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

Reducing Low-Back Pain: What You Need to Know

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

3 Steps to Alleviate a Sore Neck

3 Steps to Alleviate a Sore Neck

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

Dry Needling: Powerful, Drug-Free Pain Relief for Athletes

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

6 Stretches to Alleviate Lower-Back Pain

6 Stretches to Alleviate Lower-Back Pain

YardBarker