Giannis’ Low Back Injury: What’s a Back Contusion & How Long Does It Take To Heal?
How long will Giannis’ back injury keep him out?
The Milwaukee Bucks and their fans have high hopes for the NBA playoffs this year, but those hopes were dampened when Giannis Antetokounmpo took a hard fall on a drive to the basket in Game 1 of the first round against the Miami Heat.
Clearly experiencing severe pain in his low back, Antetokounmpo made his way to the locker room for treatment before unsuccessfully attempting to return to the game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo takes a hard fall as Kevin Love attempts to draw a charge. pic.twitter.com/bFBRdaEsz8
— Bally Sports Sun: HEAT (@BallyHEAT) April 16, 2023
While there was initial optimism about Antetokounmpo returning for Game 2, he was later ruled out for both Games 2 and 3 because of the injury, leaving the Bucks struggling to stay in the playoffs without him.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s back injury, including what a back contusion is, how it’s treated, and how long it might take for the Milwaukee Bucks star to get back on the NBA court.
What’s a Back Contusion?
When it was revealed that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s back injury was a contusion, many of my patients were left wondering what that meant exactly – and if a contusion was the kind of back injury I could treat as a Brookfield chiropractor.
A contusion is simply the medical term for a bruise, which occurs when capillaries or blood vessels are injured, causing blood to leak into the surrounding area. Contusions are a type of hematoma – or a pooling of blood outside your blood vessels – that can occur anywhere on the body, but symptoms can be different depending on if the injury is to a bone or to soft tissue.
A bone contusion, also known as a bone bruise, is a more serious injury caused by damage to the bone tissue. Just like the rest of your body, your bones are made of tissue and blood vessels. Any injury to this tissue – like a hard fall on a basketball court – can cause internal bleeding.
Bone bruises are usually characterized by:
- Stiffness or swelling
- Tenderness at the injured area
- Trouble bending or using the affected area
- Pain that lasts longer than the symptoms of a typical bruise would
They’re difficult to see on x-ray, so doctors will use an MRI scan to get a better view of a potential bone contusion and rule out tendon, ligament and cartilage injuries. Bone bruises can take up to several months to heal, depending on how severe the injury is.
Thankfully, the two-time MVP’s MRI came back clean – which means the contusion was limited to the soft tissue in his back.
Soft tissue contusions are injuries to muscle, fat or skin tissue. These are what most people think of when they hear the term ‘bruise’. They’re usually easier to diagnose because they have distinct characteristics:
- Discolored skin that looks red, green, purple, blue, or black
- A bump over the injured area
- Pain that’s worse when pressure is applied to the area
While better than a bone contusion, muscle tissue contusions can still be extremely painful, especially if they affect a muscle that you can’t avoid using.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Road to Recovery
While Giannis’ injury is painful and has kept him out of games 2 and 3, the good news is that it’s not a long-term injury. According to the Bucks’ official injury report, Giannis was downgraded from questionable to out before Game 3, but he has been doing individual work during practice.
Still, it’s unclear when he’ll be able to get back on the court.
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer has stated that Giannis’s pain tolerance is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of his return. While there’s no doubt that Giannis is a tough player, back injuries can be tricky to deal with, and it’s important that he doesn’t rush back too soon.
“The reality of it is, when he’s ready or anybody’s ready, that’s when they’re gonna play. You can’t deny the playoffs and reality and human nature and things like that, but I don’t think your back or your body knows whether it’s December or the playoffs.”
“You’re ready when you’re ready. We’re always gonna protect him and think about his health, his future, his career. It’s part of this time of year.”
– Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer
How Do You Treat A Contusion?
Most contusions simply need time to heal.
Recovery time for a soft tissue contusion can vary widely depending on the severity of the injury. In most cases, however, it takes about two to four weeks for the pain and swelling to subside, with complete healing taking up to six weeks.
For soft tissue contusions, the RICE protocol is the gold standard for managing symptoms.
RICE stands for:
- Rest: Whenever possible, rest the affected area.
- Ice: To reduce swelling, apply a cold compress to the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Always use a cloth between the ice pack and your skin to avoid frostbite.
- Compress: To further reduce swelling, wrap or bandage the bruised area, but make sure it’s not so tight that it cuts off circulation. At Ascent Chiropractic in Brookfield, we use RockTape to provide lymphatic compression, which ‘lifts’ the skin away from the muscle and fascia below to help reduce swelling faster than traditional wrapping.
- Elevate: If possible, keep the bruised area elevated higher than your heart to help drain blood from the injured area.
The RICE protocol will need to be followed for at least the first 24 to 48 hours after injury (the acute phase). You should never try to drain the blood from a contusion with a needle or other sharp object. It won’t help you heal any faster, and it’ll raise your chances of the injury getting infected.
After a few days, inflammation should start to go down and the injury may feel a little better. At Ascent Chiropractic, this is usually when we’ll begin the rehabilitation process to restore range of motion to the injured area using gentle stretching or myofascial release techniques. Weight bearing and strengthening exercises will generally only be prescribed once range of motion has been recovered.
Remember to increase your activity level gradually – fully returning to your normal activities often takes several weeks or longer. If you put too much stress on the injured area before it’s healed enough, scar tissue can develop.
Generally, you’ll be cleared to return to non-contact sports when you have normal, pain-free range of motion.
The Bottom Line On Giannis’ Back Injury
Needless to say, the Bucks are in serious need of a win when Game 4 takes place in Miami on Monday. An announcement on whether or not Giannis will finally suit up for that crucial game is going to be a much-awaited one.
There’s a reason so many athletes choose us as their Milwaukee chiropractor – we’re the experts in injury recovery and can help you determine the best course of treatment to get you back to 100% as soon as possible. Ready to get started? Make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic by calling 262-345-4166 or by using our online scheduling app.