Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers’ star center, suffered a hyperextended knee during last night’s game against the Washington Wizards. The injury occurred when Embiid landed with all of his weight on his leg after making a dunk in the third quarter. “He just fell awkwardly,” the 76ers’ coach Doc Rivers told ESPN. “Thought there was a little contact when we went up to dunk the ball. Thought he fell with his balance off.”
While Rivers and the rest of the Sixers are “hoping for the best” while they wait for more information regarding Embiid’s condition, there is a possibility that the rest of his season could be in jeopardy. Dr. Brian Sutterer, a YouTuber and expert in physical medicine and rehabilitation, provides a detailed explanation of what was likely to have happened in a new video.
“Everything that goes up has got to come down,” he says, reviewing the footage. “[Embiid] gets hit in mid-air a bit, which throws his body off. As he’s landing, he doesn’t have good control. Because he’s landing on his heel, there’s no ability for the muscles through the rest of his foot and the muscles through his lower leg to help him absorb some of that impact, and also if we look at the location of his center of mass, it’s basically over past the front of his knee, so as he goes down that’s going to make his momentum carry him forward more across that knee, leading to more hyperextension. Ideally you want to land with a flexed knee to cushion that impact, but here we can see that leg is completely straight, and as he comes down that knee comes backwards into hyperextension.”
He goes on to explain that hyperextension is the term for when we exceed the neutral alignment of the leg. In other words, when the knee bends in a direction it shouldn’t. And the further the leg is hyperextended, the greater the severity of potential injury, due to the additional strain being placed on the ligaments and soft tissue in the knee.
While the game footage doesn’t provide a clear indication of just how badly Embiid might be hurt (a fuller diagnosis is expected to be forthcoming this weekend), it doesn’t paint a great picture.
“Around 30 degrees is a critical marker here,” says Sutterer. “Just eyeballing this, it certainly looks a concerning amount.”
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