Kyle Kuzma – What foot injury is keeping him out of the 2019-20 NBA season opener?

Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out of the season opener against the LA Clippers as he continues his recovery from a “stress reaction” in his left foot suffered during USA Basketball camp (ESPN).

The Laker forward will not only miss the 2019-20 NBA season opener, but he’s also slated to miss a portion of the start to the regular season after failing to fully recover from the stress injury that kept him out of Team USA duty in August (ESPN).

A stress reaction is a mild form of bone stress injury that is less severe than a stress fracture (partial or complete fracture of bone). This pathology is a relatively common overuse injury in athletes caused by repetitive loading or micro-trauma on a bone over time. In the foot, the navicular and metatarsal bones are the most common injury sites but other structures such as the cuneiform and cuboid bones can also be affected. Generally, running and jumping athletes tend to suffer stress injuries the most – especially when undergoing increased volume or intensity of training workload.

Big changes in training routine frequently cause stress injuries – after finishing the NBA season at reduced minutes following the Lakers getting knocked out of playoff contention, a ramp in intensity at USA Basketball is a likely catalyst for Kuzma developing a stress reaction in his left foot.

Treating a stress reaction is quicker than managing a stress fracture but the process can still be drawn out. Kuzma has been dealing with this injury for two months currently (since August) and is a fair way down the return-to-play timeline – he’s currently graduated from hydrotherapy to running on an altered-gravity treadmill to running on the court. Head Lakers coach Frank Vogel has said he’s currently on “no-contact, half-court” workouts but still has to work on “full-court with sprinting or potentially half-court with contact” and the progression will occur this week.

Stress injuries in the foot typically take 2-3 months to recover – so with this timeline in mind, the Laker forward making a progression in loading in the next week and even with the Lakers medical staff moving forward cautiously, I wouldn’t expect Kuzma to take over a month to return to playing in the NBA. Expect to see him in late November at the latest – barring a significant setback.

Sources:
1. Kiel & Kaiser, 2019. Stress Reaction and Fractures. NCBI
2. Brukner & Khan, 2017. Clinical Sports Medicine 5th ed

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