The Denver Nuggets today released the latest news on guard Markus Howard and his knee injury: they have stated he will be “re-evaluated in six weeks” for a left knee sprain. This is good news on the ACL front: Howard seems to have avoided the most damaging and longest recovery of any knee injury.
Nuggets guard Markus Howard suffered a sprained left knee in the fourth quarter of Denver’s home game on Wednesday night.— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) December 17, 2021
He will be re-evaluated in six weeks. pic.twitter.com/qezEIMa31Q
Now, this sentiment goes around whenever a player gets away without surgery, and I just want to nip this “it’s not a major knee injury” thing in the bud as a former rehab therapist:
As reported yesterday, Markus Howard didn't suffer a major knee injury.— Mike Singer (@msinger) December 17, 2021
An MRI confirmed a left knee sprain, a league source told @denverpost. He'll be re-evaluated in six weeks.
Opens up a possibility of another hardship exception for the #Nuggets.
This is not slander toward Singer, who indeed reported yesterday that this news was coming and may in fact have quite a bit more behind-the-scenes information on what exactly Howard was evaluated for. My quibble is with the general sentiment that can be carried by those words.
For those of us relying only on the press release, how information is released matters. The Nuggets don’t say that he’s out for 6 weeks, they say that in 6 weeks they will see how he’s doing. If he’s not healing well, then Howard may still need surgery. Sprains and strains are innocuous language, because all of us “tweak a wrist” or “roll an ankle” and call our Grade 1 sprains what they are - sprains.
But a full ACL tear like Jamal Murray had is also technically a sprain, it’s just a Grade 3 sprain instead of Grade 1. Spencer Dinwiddie wound up having surgery for his Grade 2 ACL strain last year, a partial tear. Markus Howard will miss a minimum of 6 weeks - that is not a minor knee injury. He could have a Grade 3 sprain of non-ACL knee ligament that does not require surgery (in most cases, for instance, an MCL grade 3 sprain is no longer treated surgically and the recovery time is... 4 to 8 weeks). Multiple ligaments could be damaged and the Nuggets want to see how rest helps before deciding on a further course of action.
We don’t know what the extent of Howard’s injury is. Neither do the Nuggets honestly, or he wouldn’t be re-evaluated in 6 weeks - he would be expected back in 6 weeks. The injury looked brutal and I’m thrilled that he did not have a Grade 3 ACL sprain, so his recovery timetable is not likely to match that of Jamal Murray or P.J. Dozier.
The hope is that when Markus Howard is evaluated in 6 weeks he will be given full release to resume on-court activities. He was just starting to show why Denver has shown faith in him and Denver’s bench can use a player who will fearlessly bury three pointers when he is given the chance.
Just know that this evaluation does not mean he is out of the woods on longer-term concerns nor that he will actually be back on the court in 6 weeks. Fingers crossed for the quickest and fullest recovery possible for Howard.