Questions Surround Knicks’ Injury Evaluations

Brian DiMenna

Carmelo Anthony went down with a knee injury of some kind on March 4th in a win over Cleveland. Since then, he’s played twice, looking hobbled in both outings, finally removing himself in last night’s loss to Denver once it became clear that New York no longer had a chance to win, or even compete in any realistic sense. It raised some questions as to whether Melo should have returned in the first place given the stubbornness of his aching knee. According to Howard Beck of the New York Times, Anthony described this situation thusly:Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler

“I was just kind of being naïve to myself, just trying to psyche myself out and say, ‘I can do it, I can do it,’ ” said Anthony, who left the game in the third quarter. “But you just come to a point where you just got to figure it out and get to the bottom of it and move on.”

Now, I don’t know exactly what to make of that quote. I’ve always gotten the sense that Melo sometimes says things just to say things, and doesn’t totally consider the ramifications of exactly what he’s espousing. But this quote does give the somewhat odd impression that the Knicks’ players are in charge of what happens with their medical care, something that seems a little hard to believe. I mean, getting “to the bottom of it” sounds like it should have been Step 1.

With Tyson Chandler echoing a similar sentiment discussing the plan for evaluating his own wounded knee, Seth Rosenthal over at Posting and Toasting found the whole thing somewhat alarming:

Melo says he was being naive, but you know who isn’t– or at least shouldn’t be– naive? Doctors. The Knicks employ real doctors with medical degrees who, unless the chain of command is seriously gnarly here, have the power– the obligation!– to say “nuh-uh, guy. If you’re scared of needles then you can nuzzle a teddy bear while we jam a crazy straw into your patella. This isn’t an option.”

Now, I’m no doctor, though only in the sense that I have no actual medical training, otherwise I am totally a doctor! But aside from the lack of a medical degree, I equally have no idea how these decisions are made within an organization. I don’t know what the general standard is for athletes’ participation in their own care. So I literally have no real way to evaluate what’s going on here.

Along those lines, the Knicks have a history of being particularly cagey when it comes to injuries. They rarely divulge what’s actually going on, a practice that naturally leads to cynicism and suspicion when a player listed as day-to-day is eventually never heard from again.

But while I agree that this all sounds weird, I really don’t feel like I’m qualified to question any of it. I just can’t imagine any scenario in which the Knicks don’t employ some of the most qualified and competent medical and training personnel in the world, right? All of these people have enormous incentive to ensure that these multi-million dollar athletes are treated in a way that optimizes their performance, right? It would just beguile belief if there’s anything going on here that is significantly different than the industry standard, or that somehow James Dolan sits over the doctors’ shoulders overruling them to the tune of a catchy saxophone riff.

Which doesn’t mean it’s not somewhat possible that the Knicks are just sort of bad at this. We’ve seen over the last several decades more elite failure than could have been believed, with all sorts of folks who should have “known better” getting things spectacularly wrong. But I just can’t imagine that the Knicks’ medical staff is actually just a bunch of extras left over from the set of ER, or whatever else would have to be the case for them to be mismanaging these ailments.

But then again, I’m no doctor, I’m almost positive I’m not.

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