“That that don’t kill me”
The highest draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers since 1982. Not much more needs to be said to describe the excitement surrounding Julius Randle’s first NBA game. Sadly, that excitement quickly flushed out of Staples Center when Randle suffered a right distal tibia fracture during the Lakers’ season opener on October 28th:
You can see his right foot wobble immediately after his left foot kicks it from behind.
What is a right distal tibia fracture?
The tibia is the larger bone of the lower portion of the leg (between the knee and ankle):
A fracture is simply the discontinuity or separation of bone. Right refers to the right foot. Distal implies that the fracture happened closer to the ankle than the knee (as opposed to a proximal fracture which would be nearer the knee).
How is it treated?
There are two possible approaches, surgical and non-surgical. Non-surgical treatment solely involves a cast placed over the leg, but this is only used in minimally displaced fractures. Surgical treatment is preferred when the fracture is significant, which is generally the case when a 6’9, 250lb basketball player is bullying his way through traffic. Randle underwent surgery the morning after his injury, most probably open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). In this operation, the surgeon places a rod over the fractured site for stabilization and screws it into the bone to keep everything in place. They are permanent, but generally do not affect the individual. The x-ray image below is of a distal fracture right tibia.
What does this mean for the rookie?
Good thing for Randle, this is a common NBA injury that most players bounce back from. Jrue Holiday and JaVale McGee are two of the most recent players with surgically-corrected tibia fractures. Ironically, the Los Angeles Lakers’ highest draft pick before Randle, James “Big Game James” Worthy, fractured the same bone during his 1982 rookie season. After the incident, then-coach Pat Riley said, “I just hope it’s a speedy and healthy recovery for him so he’ll be ready to enjoy his career next year…” Worthy lived up to his coach’s hopes as a 3x NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, and 7x NBA All-Star. In order for Randle to bounce back, he will need to be disciplined in his rehab and physical therapy.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, there is a silver lining for the rookie. The Lakers have him sidelined for the season, which is more than enough recovery time for his type of injury. In his long off-season, Randle will be able to work on parts of his game such as his mid-range jumper, his off-hand, his pick-and-roll defense, and scoring with his back to the basket. Should he be disciplined and learn from the work ethic of a certain, snake-like teammate, he’ll come back a much more refined player: one of the few things Laker fans can actually look forward to.