MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Giannis has a hyperextended knee and no structural damage. Here's what that could mean for the Bucks star's recovery.

Grace McDermott
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is helped off the court after injuring his left knee Tuesday night.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's fall in Atlanta halfway through the third quarter of Game 4 resounded through Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks' star player landed badly defending Atlanta Hawks forward Clint Capela at the rim and stayed down for a few minutes clutching his left leg.

He was able to get up and walk off the court and into the locker room with a noticeable limp. The Bucks called it a hyperextended left knee, and ESPN reported Wednesday that he suffered no structural damage.

We spoke with Mark Wichman, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee, to see what Antetokounmpo's recovery might look like. 

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Giannis has a hyperextended left knee

The Bucks have characterized Antetokounmpo's situation as a hyperextended left knee and have not released a timetable on his return except that he's "doubtful" for Game 5.

Hyperextension stretches the back of the knee, Wichman said. Some people can naturally hyperextend more than others, but many end up tearing internal structures.

Seems Antetokounmpo can count himself among those lucky enough to have that extra hyperextension, as he did not tear his anterior cruciate ligament or the posterior cruciate ligament, better known as the ACL and the PCL, nor his meniscus.

"I've seen a good number of significant injuries result from hyperextension," Wichman said.

Recovery from a hyperextended knee is typically 10-14 days

Antetokounmpo's recovery period could be as short as 10 to 14 days, according to Wichman, as he stretched the capsule of his knee without actually causing any structural damage.

If his fall had caused an ACL or PCL tear, his return to basketball would look very different.

"An ACL tear ... would take a professional basketball player nine to 12 months to fully recover from," Wichman said. "Basketball is very difficult on those ligaments."

A PCL reconstructive surgery would have had a similar timeline, likely causing Antetokounmpo to miss much of the 2022 season.

From initial reports from the Bucks, it looks like the star forward will be able to avoid the operating table.

It's impossible to know the extent of an injury from the initial moments

Antetokounmpo was able to get up and walk off the court Tuesday night, but that wasn't a sure sign of a less-intensive injury.

Wichman said that he has seen some athletes finish a game through an ACL tear as long as the rest of the knee is working.

"In an ACL injury, the thing that stops the athlete from getting up and walking is usually the swelling of the knee due to bleeding, and that hasn’t occurred yet when they first get up from the injury," Wichman said. "Unless you pivot, you could easily think that everything’s OK. Running and walking are not ACL-dependent."

In 2008, for instance, Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo tore his ACL in a game against the Cubs and proceeded to finish the inning and pitch another before leaving the diamond.

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