Joel Embiid has same foot injury Yao Ming, Bill Walton had
How serious is Joel Embiid’s foot injury? Unfortunately for the former Kansas star, there are some examples of superstar NBA players who have essentially been forced into retirement by the same injury he has. Bill Walton and Yao Ming are two of the more alarming examples.
Embiid’s agent Arn Tellem announced on Thursday that the 20-year-old has a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot and is scheduled to undergo surgery on Friday. As SI.com’s Chris Mannix reminded us, Yao suffered the same injury in 2008 and 2009 and eventually retired in 2011 as a result. Walton was also forced into retirement by foot fractures that caused him to miss all but 14 games between 1978 and 1982.
Fortunately for Embiid, there are some cases where players fractured their navicular bone that don’t end with a horror story. Zydrunas Ilgauskas dealt with it when he was younger but still averaged 73 games per season over the final 10 years of his career. Dr. Kenneth Hunt, an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics at Stanford, told Mannix that the key is addressing the injury quickly.
“The majority of these injuries will heal completely,” Hunt said. “Getting to it early is a good prognostic sign. In his case, it appears it was treated early and appropriately. In the cases I have seen, the athletes that have recurrent fractures have high arches and stiff feet. They can develop large spurs in the adjacent bones. But again, to the majority of athletes this will heal and not be an issue in the future.”
Embiid’s agent said the injury occurred within the last few days, so the fact that he’s already undergoing surgery is a positive.
Still, stories like Yao’s and Walton’s could be enough to scare several NBA teams away. In addition to the foot injury, Embiid also suffered a back injury that kept him out of the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments. He obviously presents a significant risk at this point.
“With that type of injury,” one Western Conference executive told Mannix, “I wouldn’t take him in the top-ten.”
Neither would we.