Zion Williamson – What is going on with his knee?

The New Orleans Rookie had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to treat a “torn lateral meniscus” on Monday afternoon. The Pelicans expect Zion will miss six to eight weights (ESPN, New Orleans Pelicans).

Zion’s injury timeline means that he will miss at least 20 games. If his return-to-play timeline extends to eight weeks, he will miss 27 games which means he should be cleared to play on Christmas Day against the Denver Nuggets.

The meniscus is a structure in the knee joint that improves the ability of the knee to absorb shock and distribute body weight over a larger area. It also helps to guide and coordinate knee motion – making it an important stabiliser of the knee.

The most common mechanism of injury for a meniscus is a twisting of the knee with a partially bent (flexed) knee or with the foot anchored/planted to the ground. This motion causes tears to the meniscus because there is an overload of shear stress within the knee. There are multiple types of meniscal injuries and the worst presenting cases such as those with locked knees require urgent arthroscopic surgery.

Arthroscopic surgery, commonly known as arthroscopy, is a surgery that requires only a small incision so a tiny camera (an arthroscope) can enter and provide images to diagnose and treat knee joint conditions as the surgeon repairs the damaged structures. In Zion’s case, arthroscopy has been used to perform a debridement – this type of procedure focuses on removing the damaged portion of the meniscus to alleviate symptoms and help the remainder of the meniscus to heal and function optimally. This procedure is less serious than a meniscectomy (cutting out part of the meniscus) which has a longer rehab timeline.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pels exercised more caution and further delayed the timeline following Zion’s extensive knee history. Keep an eye out around the Christmas period for the no.1 overall pick to make his highly anticipated debut in the NBA.

1. Lee et al., 2019. Return to Sports After Athletes Undergo Meniscal Surgery: A Systematic Review.
2. Brukner & Khan, 2015. Clinical Sports Medicine 5th ed

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