Michal Porter Jr. is the mystery of this draft. All the raw talent and size, but a back injury that needed surgery, lingers in the air. Porter underwent a microdiscectomy of L3-4, cutting pieces of the disc that protrudes onto the nerve.
The biggest concern should be, how did he get to a place where he had nerve pain into his left leg? Compressed nerves are not something to be taken lightly. While many adults get this problem, there are not many people at his age that do. The two most common reasons for a disc bulge are: 1) trauma (e.g. car accident, bad fall, etc.) or 2) curvature in the spine. I would be less worried about the first option in Porter's case. To understand the difference, take the recent injury of LA Chargers tight end, Hunter Henry. He recently tore his right ACL running downfield "untouched". That means he had impairments in his body that caused faulty knee mechanics that created constant pressure on the ACL that led to a non-contact injury. This is more of a complex issue that would have to be treated holistically, checking the ankles, hips, pelvis, and so on to find the root of the cause. A cause that can be deeply rooted in his "posture" and movement patterns which makes it more difficult (not impossible) to change. You would almost rather read the below tweet as "Hunter Henry tore his right ACL when his teammate lost control and flew into his knee" atleast eliminating the mystery of the cause.
If it is option number two and Porter does have some curvature in his body, can we blame the obvious - is it natural for a person 6'10" to bend down so low to dribble the way he does. Are there any weaknesses in his body that cause excessive pressures on one side of his spine? To answer the first question, I started looking at his most common comparison: Kevin Durant. He seems like he is having a nice long and successful career as an athletic big man (around the same height as Porter), but we seem to have injury amnesia. Durant has had a plethora of injuries including multiple ankle sprains and needed to have bone graft surgery for his foot due to a Jones Fracture. Although he has not reached Cal Ripken Jr. caliber status, he seems to be maxing out his potential health-wise. So while Porters path ahead can lead to a successful career, it won't be a smooth ride.
Tale of the Tape:
- Flexed posture at thoracic (upper back) spine, hips and knees possibly signaling impaired neurodynamics
- lateral pelvic stability deficits and insufficient lower abdominal strength (would explain his lack of lateral speed)
- tight hips (hip flexors and adductors)
Synopsis: This is a classic risk-reward calculation. Does his size, athleticism, talent and versatility outweigh the injury risk that comes along with it? He will most likely have a career with multiple injuries, but with the right training staff, he could keep those injuries to a minimum and might just be worth it.
The Injury Analyst is a blog dedicated to not only explaining injuries that have occurred, but predicting and highlighting future injury risks for professional athletes. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: I have not seen the subject of this article personally in clinic, rather all views and opinions of the author have been made based off of video footage of the athlete. This article is not meant as a diagnosis or a treatment plan.