The night it was revealed that Danilo Gallinari had surgery on his ACL nine months after he initially injured it against the Dallas Mavericks on April 4th of 2013, I had an exchange with a source familiar with the Denver Nuggets. That person said rather emphatically, "I've never seen anyone who worked harder to come back from an injury than Gallo." There was palpable sadness once the news came down. "There was no doubt Gallo wanted on that court, badly," another source told me.
Yet, in recent days, Gallo and his agent Arn Tellem have come under fire for allegedly pushing the Nuggets toward this procedure when the Nuggets team doctors advised he go through what is described as traditional ACL reconstruction (with anywhere between nine months to one year recovery).
Dave Krieger of 850 KOA wrote on his blog about the process of decision making that lead to Gallo choosing the procedure nicknamed "healing response". This was performed by Dr. Richard Steadman of the Steadman Clinic in Vail. This is the same clinic where Kenyon Martin had his two microfracture surgeries performed. Steadman is considered to be one of the leading surgeons in the United States when it comes to knee injuries. Olympic athletes routinely visit his clinic, and the first famous case of "healing response" occurred in 2002 when Olympic downhill skier Bode Miller successfully underwent the same procedure as Gallo. Steadman is known for his work with Olympic Skiers and many athletes have also come to his clinic.
The sequence of events leading up to Gallo's decision to go with the healing response procedure are rather murky. No one outside of the Nuggets, Gallo and the apparently competing medical interests know what really went on behind closed doors. Publicly, Gallinari was initially diagnosed by the Nuggets medical staff on April 5th as having an ACL tear with little meniscus damage on April 5th. He had yet to go through ACL surgery as of May 31st, but did have meniscus repair three weeks before. Exactly two weeks later, he announced on his Facebook page in a video that was in his native Italian that he underwent healing response surgery and that he will be back much sooner than expected.
According to Krieger, Gallinari and his agent Tellem's decision to seek a second opinion on his ACL with Steadman is a large bone of contention within the Nuggets organization. Apparently, Steadman diagnosed Gallo with only a partial tear of his ACL, and was the one who discovered meniscus damage that the Nuggets medical personnel missed. What is extremely apparent is there was a vast discrepancy between Steadman, and the Nuggets medical personnel - lead by Dr. Steve Traina. Sometimes differences of opinion are taken far more seriously than they need to be.
What is clear, the procedure Gallo underwent in June of last year didn't work to the way that, apparently, it was envisioned by Steadman and Gallo. Now, calling the procedure "new age" is very much hyperbole. There wasn't Yanni music in the background, while shaman danced around Gallo with patchouli incense and giant feathers. Nor did Gallo go to some back alley doctor with a fake degree from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, and have his procedure done over a bottle of whiskey and two packs of smokes in a dingy unsanitary basement. Steadman is world renown for his knee procedures. It just turned out that Gallo was part of that 23% of people who didn't take to the procedure that was performed.
In the long run, this is about a player who was desperate to play again. Let's cut all the bullroar out of the equation, and the agendas and egos of embittered medical personnel (which is very real) who had their feelings hurt and those who look to have their own vision validated. Both sides need to cool it. This is about a player who simply wanted to play. Multiple sources have told me Gallinari was upset to the point of panic when he first injured his knee. I think we forget that players want to play basketball (most of them) and Gallo was certainly one of them. I suppose, in the grand scheme of things Gallo was told about a procedure that matched up with his most fervent desire to play sooner, all the while being less invasive than traditional ACL surgery. He went with it, and it didn't work.
I am loath to wag my finger with moral indignation at any player who has a major injury. Unlike most of us, their athletic ability is tied directly to their livelihood. That is why when Derrick Rose took a whole year off, I didn't join the chorus of people who thought he was wrong. There isn't a one size fits all narrative to injuries. There cant be. No organization can tell a player where and when to have surgery, it's up to the player.
Only in hindsight can we say that, maybe, Gallo should have had a greater support group around him advising him to go with the ACL reconstruction. In hindsight Gallo made a mistake. I'm sure that is something he would like to change if he could go back and do it over. However, you have to kind of admire someone who wants to play that much. He just chose what became the wrong path. That is something he has to live with.
As ever, we at Denver Stiffs try to look on the bright side once our inherent cynicism wanes. Gallo has already done extensive rehab on his knee. It's strong. Hopefully he will come back next season and be just as strong as he was before. I saw it myself at multiple practices and in video's posted on his Facebook page. A player rehabbing feverishly in the hopes of returning to the court. It. Just. Didn't. Work ... Gallo has to live with that.
If he comes back with a vengeance next season, this will be a blip on the radar of his career. Hopefully, with the way things shake out, this will be a learning experience. We can only wait to find out.
- Gallo, his knee, and the player who just wants to play
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- With Gallo out for the season, hopes for a Nuggets playoff run dwindle
- Nuggets vs. Trailblazers recap: LaMarcus Aldridge leads comeback as Ty Lawson, Nuggets fade down the stretch
- 2nd half thread: Nuggets at Trail Blazers