Minutes before the beginning of NBA free agency last month, the Memphis Grizzlies revealed that their roster will have an unexpected hole to start the season. The team announced that Jaren Jackson Jr. underwent a procedure on his right foot to address a stress fracture injury.
The Grizzlies drafted two forwards in the first round capable of playing the traditional power forward position, plus they added Kenneth Lofton Jr. as an undrafted free agent.
Jackson's four-to-six month return-to-play timeline means he should be back between November and January.
The Commercial Appeal interviewed Dr. Kenneth Jung, an orthopedics doctor who specializes in foot and ankle fractures, to get more clarity on Jackson's injury.
Jung was a foot and ankle consultant for the L.A. Lakers, Anaheim Ducks and L.A. Kings, among other sports franchises.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
CA: What should we know about a stress fracture injury?
Jung: The most important thing is which bone it is. The common one, especially in basketball players, is the fifth metatarsal. Another common one that requires surgery is the navicular, which is like in the middle of the foot. Jackson had surgery at the end of June, so it's either something that he was dealing with through the season and it didn't progress, or he may have started working out again and noticed pain there.
CA: What are the different ways a player can get a stress fracture injury? How do they happen?
Jung: It's typically from overuse. You can change footwear, like you change your equipment. You can also overtrain and just overload the bone and then it breaks. I would imagine if he was dealing with it through the season, they would have addressed it right after the season ended. So this may have been something in his offseason conditioning.
CA: What are some of the hurdles a player has to cross to return to play?
Jung: I usually tell patients a bone takes a minimum of typically six-to-eight weeks to heal. Sometimes it takes even as long as three months. When (the Grizzlies) say four-to-six months, I think they are commenting on his total return to play. Obviously once the bone heals, whether it takes two months or three months, then you're starting to work back into basketball shape. That's why they may have given themselves a little leeway, whether it's four months or six months. He's got to get built back up to be able to play an entire season. The other part is his body will decondition somewhat while he's letting the bone heal. You're going to need some time to build that back up to get back onto the court.
CA: Is there an increased risk that a stress fracture injury could reoccur again? Is it more likely for him as a 6-foot-11 player to re-injure himself than smaller guys?
Jung: Obviously, big guys put a lot of weight on their leg. One of the ones that everyone remembers is Yao Ming. Part of it, you're looking at the overall anatomy or structure of the individual's foot.
CA: Are players who suffer stress fracture injuries commonly able to return back to their form before the injury?
Jung: Once the bone heals and you're taken care of, you would expect them to get back to full activity. It's not a career threatening or a career altering type injury.
CA: What's the main aspect of a player's game impacted by a stress fracture injury? What's the biggest hurdle from a physical standpoint?
Jung: Certain activities like cutting inside, diving, being on the ball of your feet, that's where you can get stress in some of these bones and can put them at risk for having symptoms. With regards to range of motion, it's typically not involving a joint, so he should be able to get all of that range of motion back.
CA: Jaren Jackson Jr. had never played more than 58 games in the regular season until this year. This season he played 78 games in the regular season and 12 more in the playoffs. He played 11 games the previous season. Do you believe this factored into his stress fracture injury?
Jung: It definitely could because this is the most load he's had on his foot. That's where it goes back to that metabolic component. His body wasn't able to keep up with it, and he ended up at higher risk of getting that stress fracture.
CA: People always talk about the mental hurdle with knee injuries. Is it the same way with foot injuries?
Jung: It can be in this sense, but it's not necessarily like an ACL, where they remember how that instability felt in the knee or they remember the pop. He shouldn't have that with this.
WHO STARTS FOR JAREN?: With Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson out, how could Brandon Clarke fare in the starting lineup?
CA: Was there anything else you wanted to add about stress fracture injuries and your experience with them?
Jung: The key thing is if you got parents or young athletes reading your article, these things don't just happen in pro players. They can happen in athletes of any age. It's due to overuse. A lot of people think you just keep practicing, practicing, practicing. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, that can increase your risk in stress fractures because of the overuse component.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Jaren Jackson injury: A doctor explains impact for Memphis Grizzlies