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Bucks Dodge A Bullet With Giannis Antetokounmpo Knee Injury

Ross Everett
by in NBA on
  • 2020 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo went down hard in the second half of Milwaukee’s Game 4 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
  • The immediate diagnosis was a hyperextended knee though Antetokounmpo thankfully avoided any structural damage.
  • Despite the good news his status for the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals is unclear. He is listed as ‘doubtful’ for Game 5 on Thursday night.

The Milwaukee Bucks were already getting eviscerated by the Atlanta Hawks–minus superstar guard Trae Young–on Tuesday night and despite pulling to within 10 midway through the third quarter it didn’t look like it could get much worse. Then it did–Bucks’ franchise centerpiece and 2020 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo went down hard after an awkward landing raising fears of a catastrophic knee injury.

The immediate postgame diagnosis was a hyperextended knee which isn’t good but that wasn’t the most significant issue. Hyperextended knees frequently come with ligament damage such as torn ACLs and MCLs:

The two main ligaments usually injured in a knee hyperextension are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). Both ligaments are located in the center of the knee.

The ACL controls the forward movement and the rotation of the shinbone, or tibia. The PCL controls the tibia’s backward movement. These ligaments connect the tibia to the thighbone, or femur. When they’re injured the knee becomes much less stable.

While the team and their fans held their collective breaths overnight the end result was close to ‘best case scenario’ given the circumstances. A MRI revealed no structural damage and all of the ligaments in his knee are in good shape. This didn’t stop ESPN’s unctuous Steven A. Smith from dropping a hysterical tweet at the time it happened suggesting that Antetokounmpo had suffered a serious ACL injury–for which he was rightfully and widely heckled.

And now the bad news–even without structural damage from a hyperextension it is a significant injury. Here’s an assessment of what it means:

It may take months before you achieve a full range of motion and the knee is pain-free. Most kids and adults can return to their normal activities after a hyperextended knee injury. If the sprain is mild, your recovery time will be faster than if you have a more serious injury.

Athletes may be able to continue with their sports. But a major knee injury may place some limits on how far they can push their bodies.

Older adults tend to heal more slowly. They may also have lingering discomfort or stiffness in their knees. That can be minimized with exercise.

This suggestion for management of a hyperextended knee doesn’t bode well either (emphasis added):

You may need to stop or reduce your participation in certain sports or activities if they put your knee at further risk of injury. And *delay or avoid explosive sports, like basketball* or skiing, until you make a full recovery.

Most sources attach a two to four week recovery time to a ‘mild’ knee hyperextension. Facing a feisty Atlanta Hawks team which may be getting Trae Young back for Game 5 that timeframe could prove to be a serious issue for the Bucks’ hopes to reach the NBA Finals. It also puts Antetokounmpo’s participation in the Tokyo Summer Olympics with the Greek basketball team into serious doubt. Pending any type of cancellation or postponement due to the COVID-19 situation in Japan, the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin on Friday, July 23.

For now, Antetokounmpo is listed as ‘Doubtful’ for Thursday’s Game 5 in Milwaukee. Most sportsbooks opened the game at Milwaukee -3 following the Antetokounmpo diagnosis with sharps immediately betting it down to -2.5 and then -2. The injury has also had an impact on the futures betting market–at BetOnline.ag the Bucks are now a +375 second choice to win the NBA Championship behind the Phoenix Suns at -155. The Bucks are still favored to win the series at -122 with a +102 takeback on the Hawks but that is a far cry from the pricing before the Eastern Conference began. Immediately after beating the Brookyn Nets in seven games the Bucks opened as a -450 choice to beat the Hawks and advance to the NBA Finals.

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