Did the University of Maryland do wrong by former center Alex Len?

Alex Len at the University of Maryland. - Streeter Lecka

After watching a video interview with prospect Alex Len it got me thinking about some serious questions for the NCAA.

Alex Len is a 7'1" and 255 pound center. He's just 20 years-old and projected to be a lottery pick, a top-10 pick, on June 27th in the NBA draft. The problem? He's also recovering from ankle surgery that he underwent in early May, according to USA Today.

Former Maryland center Alex Len will be sidelined up to six months after undergoing surgery on his left ankle in North Carolina.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson stabilized a stress fracture in Len's ankle. The problem that was diagnosed after the 7-foot-1 center left Maryland after his sophomore season to enter the NBA draft.

The report from USA Today and one from ESPN's Andy Katz both confirm the injury and the timetable for his return at between 4-6 months. The interesting part from the USA Today report is the fact that the injury was found after Len's season was over. Consider the timing on that with this conversation below from Grantland's: NBA Job Interview: Alex Len (With Scouting Report!) article that included a video with Bill Simmons, Jalen Rose, and Len (starting at the 9:01 mark).

Bill Simmons, "So, like the last month of the season you were playing hurt?"

Alex Len, "Yeah."

Simmons, "And you knew it? Did you tell anybody?"

Len, "Yeah, I told my trainers, but we treated it like a regular, like, ankle sprain. We did a lot of treatment. Icing, stuff like that, steam. But we decided to do MRI after the season. After the season, we found out I had a problem in there."

Jalen Rose, "Bill, when you're in college they don't want you to get it [the MRI] during the season. It benefits them for you to finish the season."

Simmons, "I don't love that idea. The MRI should have happened before."

--

The University of Maryland training staff should face some type of investigation. Len was a student-athlete and should have been given an X-ray and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test before being allowed to play again. Len claims the injury happened during the last month of the season, yet he played in all of his team's 38 games, including the ACC tournament and National Invitational Tournament, and averaged 26.4 minutes per game.

This just didn't sit right with me, "But we decided to do MRI after the season." And these are the thoughts that went through my head:

1.) Len is from the Ukraine and his parents live there. How was his injury communicated to his parents? Was it disclosed to them?

2.) Was Len given a choice on an MRI? Was that a conversation that happened? I want to know. A collegiate student-athlete should not be given a choice on medical treatment. They are amateur athletes that should be able to depend on the trainers and doctors to do right by them.

3.) By playing on a stress fracture could the injury have gotten worse? A simple search found this from Children's Hospital:

The primary therapy for most stress fractures is simply to rest the injured foot or leg-restricting weight-bearing actions and all activities that involve stressing the injured area for a period of weeks or months. Your child's doctor may also recommend a cast or walking boot in order to:

  • relax the stress on the leg
  • protect the leg from further damage
  • force the athlete to rest

For a more severe stress fracture, treatment options may include:

  • temporary use of crutches or a wheelchair
  • physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the injured muscles and tendons
  • surgery (less common, but is sometimes needed)

Surgery is less common and that is what Len had to have done. So, did playing on his stress fracture cause more damage that forced the surgery that will now have him out 4-6 months? Is that why fans of whichever team drafts him will have to be introduced to him while he is on crutches or in a walking boot when he goes on stage to meet David Stern on June 27th?

It seemed obvious to Jalen Rose why Len will be sidelined. The University of Maryland put their 25-13 record and NIT appearance ahead of their player's safety. When the NBA implemented their age requirements in 2006, stating that players must be 19 years-old to enter the NBA draft or at least one NBA season has elapsed since the player's graduation from high school, it was supposed to be a good thing for college sports. Well, this Len injury stinks of something rotten in the college system.

The NCAA needs to look into this.


Nate_Timmons on Twitter
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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